They sing together
The crickets do, just at dusk—
The last summer song.
They sing together
The crickets do, just at dusk—
The last summer song.
I do love to bake, but only cookies, pies and apple crisp. I’ve attempted to make muffins over the years, but they usually come out like lead-filled hockey pucks. Cupcakes; forget it. Cakes; the worst.
I have made exactly two cakes in my life; one was a chocolate cake with caramel frosting. The cake was a slanted disaster, plus it had a crater in the middle. Not knowing how to repair a cake, I simply filled the crater with more frosting. The frosting turned as hard as a brick, but it was sort of like fudge, so no real harm done.
Years later, I tried making a white cake with strawberry frosting. Now, before I go further, I made this cake (and the last one) from scratch, not from a mix. I thought somehow that it would be a better cake from scratch. That sort of cake snobbery got me nowhere. In fact, I have heard from very good sources that the best cakes are the ones from a mix!
Well, my cake was a flat disaster, literally and figuratively. It had a tough texture, but the strawberry frosting was pretty good. What’s really funny about this is that my mother made fabulous cakes and made it look so easy. When she heard about my fledgling effort in baking, she offered to buy me a cake stand.
I told her that, since I had only made two cakes in my entire life, that really wasn’t something I needed. In fact, from then on I just stuck to pies, cobblers, crisps and cookies. We all can’t be Betty Crockers.
These days I watch the Great British Baking show with admiration and jealousy. I have heard from the Crankee Yankee, who has traveled to England a few times, that the pastries and other confections in England are absolutely wonderful. After watching all those eager and talented bakers on the show, I may go to England myself just to eat cake. (Sorry, Marie Antoinette.)
I am amazed and humbled by people who do something great in their lives that positively affect and help others. I admire the courage and bravery it takes to make a positive difference in the world. These are the people who are courageous, caring and are fully committed to their cause.
But what of those who are quietly and kindly doing the hard and often unappreciated work of caring for a loved one? What of those who, day after day, do all the hard work to get the right help, medications, paperwork and all that goes with caring for a loved one?
These are unsung heroes and heroines who kindly and lovingly tend to an aged parent or autistic sibling or a Downs Syndrome child. They have taken on the care for their person, and they do most of the work to feed them, bathe them, comfort them, bring them their medications, hold their hands and listen to them.
If you should ask them how things are going, they will always say “fine.” They might have been up all night, caring for a mother’s upset stomach or nerves, but they still say “fine.” They can be frustrated and anxious and worry that they are not doing enough, but still they say that they are “fine.”
This is what courage, caring and committment is; the courage to face the truth and deal with it, the caring that is shown to a loved one and the committment they have to do the best that they can.
My sister-in-law (who is also my best friend) and I often talk about the mother-daughter bond that is unlike the mother-son bond. There is just something different and more heart-to-heart with mothers and daughters. It’s hard to explain, but it is a bond unlike no other.
From the moment we are born, our mothers nurture us, care for us and love us unconditionally. When we are adults and witness the slow decline of our mothers; those amazing women who had been our North Star for years—it is hard to see them grow old and decline.
Although she would probably not agree with me on this, my sister-in-law is the bravest, smartest and most loving person I know. She and her husband took her mother into their home seven years ago and have cared for her ever since. She has shown the best of what caring, courage and committment truly is.
I am proud and honored to be her friend and her sister-in-law.
Note to my sister-in-law: I hope that this post does not embarrass you. I hope that you know that you are doing angels’ work each day and each night. I hope that you know that you are my hero and always have been.
When I see a clutch of pretty young girls walking along the street, chatting and checking their phones and talking loudly about the latest celeb they’d like to meet, I just smile. When I see high school boys playing a pickup game of basketball and talking about the girls they like and so on, I just smile.
Now and then I treat myself to the occasional hot chai latte (the only really “foo-foo” drink I like) from the local coffee shop in our town. Phillips Exeter Academy is close by, and often the place is filled with students.
Generally they ignore me, but when they do see me there, a woman older than their moms; they either ignore me or gawk at me for being in their “space.” It doesn’t bother me; I’m there for the latte, not the kids. And usually, there are a few more oldsters in there like me.
Sure, it may be a student hangout, but the door is open to anyone; no age limit. I just order my drink and enjoy watching people. I remember those days in college when I felt I could do anything, be anything, go anywhere. I couldn’t imagine myself at age 25 or 30. My body was flexible and strong, I only needed the barest of makeup, and my hair always looked good.
I never gave much thought to the future. I never thought of becoming older. I never thought I would become an older woman with most of my adventures behind me. I couldn’t imagine being married, or having children, or burying my parents. All of that was far, far ahead of me.
If I gave any thought at all to the future, it always had me as the starring role; still young, still good-looking and still able to do almost anything. Well, I made it through the 20s, the 30s, the 40s, the 50s, and now I am in my 60s. In fact, the 70s are slowly but surely creeping up on me as well.
I remember looking into my grandmother’s face, wreathed in wrinkles, her formerly red hair turned silver. I remember thinking ‘I’ll never be that old!’ But time passes, and we do get older.
I imagine that, to these young and fresh kids in college that I must look quite grandmotherly to them. They will probably think, as I once did, ‘I’ll NEVER be (or look) that old!’ They will think, as I once did, that they will always want to wear the highest high heels and the latest fashions. They will think, as I once did, that they will be young and beautiful forever.
My advice to them is this: “just you wait.” And no, that is not a mean or petty phrase; it just means that, whether we like it or not, time marches on and we with it. Our lives are what we make it, and our outer shell may suffer from age, but our spirits are still strong and bright.
I think of the time still ahead of me, and how precious that is. I think of all those “today” moments; a cup of hot strong coffee in the morning, cats rubbing around my ankles, the Crankee Yankee’s laughter, the time with dear friends, the trips up and down the coast, the wonderful change of seasons, the phone calls from our granddaughters who always say “when you come over, bring doughnuts!”
I can even imagine that, when my time comes (or, as the Brits say, when my ‘expirey’ date comes due) when I will go on from this earth, that there will be at least one or two loved ones waiting for me, smiling and saying “just you wait!”
There’s just something so summery about the sound of a slammed screen door. It used to drive my grandmother crazy when my cousins came up from the Carolinas to visit during the summer; that screen door slammed all the time.
Mom and Dad bought some gorgeous hand-made wooden screen doors years ago, and begged everyone to slam them. Unlike my grandmother, they adored the sound.
Now that Fall is upon us, we will miss that summery sound of slamming screen doors. The sound conjures up pick-up baseball games, volleyball, tag and other summer evening games which only ended when mothers called their kids in to wash up, eat dinner and go to bed. Those summery screen door slams bring to mind iced tea with mint, hot dogs and burgers on the grill, corn on the cob slathered with butter, ice cream and slabs of drippy and delicious watermelon.
The sound makes us remember how good it is to run barefoot in the grass, and how the stars and the fireflies seem to twinkle at the same time. The moon always seems fuller and more beautiful in summer, and the birds all congregate in nearby trees to gossip and then settle in for the night.
We sleep with the windows open and the soft sweet air, filled with the scent of mowed grass and family barbeques, drifts in to lull us to sleep. If we are lucky, we can hear the sound of whippoorwills calling to each other above the crickets’ chorus. If we live near water, we can hear the frogs tuning up their songs; chug-a-rum, chug-a-rum. Sometimes the loons will sing their beautiful trills; one of the prettiest of all birdsongs. Occasionally, there may be an owl or two hooting in the darkness.
This time of year is bittersweet; and we always hope for more fair days and warmth, punctuated by laughing children, lawn mowers, and people chatting on porches. While the weather stays warm and the flowers still bloom, we still have time to slam all those screen doors.
SPECIAL NOTE: let us keep the victims of Hurricane Florence in our thoughts and prayers.
The Crankee Yankee and I live in a house built circa 1953. Over the years, his dad and now the Crankee Yankee have made many improvements on it. However, because so much had to be done to repair the roof, we found that a few mice had crept in.
Now, we have five cats, so they have done all the work of flushing them out so that we can keep the mice out. We also installed one of those “mouse be gone” pluginskis that make a noise that only a mouse could hear (and evidently not care much for), and that cut way down on the midnight surprises.
However, our best mouser, Pookie, surprised me the other night with a baby mouse in his mouth. And if there is one baby mouse, you know that there will be more. So up went the traps again, and I was able to gently winkle the little thing out of Pookie’s mouth.
Unfortunately, the trauma of being caught plus being so little, it died in my hand. I felt badly for it, but practically, what could have been done? I took the baby out into our back yard where there are autumn flowers growing wild. I found a soft bit of moss under some yellow asters, and laid him (or her) down onto it.
I said a little prayer for the baby, and asked the angels to send him home where mice have endless fields in which to run and play, with all the food they can eat, and where no cats will find them.
Rest in peace, little one.
The day is fine, the sun is out,
And there’s nothing whatever to grumble about.
But then there are days you want to get out of your skin
And be in any other place than the place you’re in.
Those are the touchy, prickly, I-hate-everybody days
When you wish that everyone would just go their separate ways
And leave you be
To sit and sulk in your own misery.
It’s nothing you can put a finger on—
It’s just that the whole day feels wrong.
Nothing pleases, your book is boring and TV’s crap
Everyone around you feels the snap
Of your bad moods and muttering—
If someone gets in your way, uttering
All the things you should be happy about
I say shut them up, go away; you need to pout
It’s a day when there’s no one’s face you like—
So just tell them all to take a hike.