INKLINGS

March 18, 2009 at 12:38 am (Authors, Books, Brother John, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Family, Friends, music, poetry, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Siggy

Our Guest Blogger... Siggy!

Hello, my name is “Siggy“, and I have been asked to write a “Guest Blog”. I will get right to it; you can find out a little bit more about me at the end (and hopefully, by reading my story about the Inklings)!

Last year, my wife and I watched a documentary of C.S. Lewis, the British author whose impressive list of books includes the well-known, “Chronicles of Narnia” series. (By the way, every book C.S. Lewis published during his life time–over twenty–is still in print.) The documentary was actually a Christmas gift from the year before; one of those things that just are put aside to get to “later”, you know? Well, I guess the time was right, and we put it on to watch. During the program, it was mentioned that Lewis belonged to a small group of writers who got together regularly for several decades (another notable member of the group was J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for “Lord Of The Rings“). They called themselves the “Inklings“. My wife loved this name, and told me if we ever started a writers group, that was what we should call it. We talked about who else might be in the group, and we both suggested our friend and fellow-writer, Eydie — hence, this connection to her blog site!

Our small writing group, Inklings, is very important to me. To me the name is really important. If our group can provide even a little spark and motivation for the participating members it is all worth it. Inklings is a perfect name. I want our small writing group to encourage the writers it in to continue to improve — to be the best writers they can be.

I never forgot an anecdote related by Arthur Gordon which told the story of two writing groups that had met decades ago, when the participants were still in college. The two groups were about equal in talent. One was a group of women whose members were kind to one another and did everything in their power to encourage each other, while the all male group, who aptly called themselves “The Stranglers“, were brutal with one another and ripped into each others work. Years later, not one prominent writer had come out of The Stranglers, but several emerged from the women’s group, including Marjorie Rawlings, author of “The Yearling“.

After hearing that story, I was determined that Inklings would be a place where we could encourage each other, not tear each other apart. We held our first meeting in August 2008, just three of us — myself, my wife, and Eydie. Now Inklings is starting to grow. A graphic artist came twice, she works for the publisher who printed Eydie‘s first book of poetry, “September Butterfly.” In February we gained our first (and second!) virtual members. BlogMaster, Brother John, is now a member and I am sure he will bring us into the 21st century, and beyond, with his networking talents, and hopefully we will be encouraging his creativity in the writing area. My old friend, Sara, who recently married and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter in her life, also joined us long-distance. Sara just this past week completed her studies and became an ordained minister because she wanted to marry people! And this month, another person, a registered lobbyist, joined us for the first time and expressed an interest in coming back. As you can see, our growing group is diverse.

Each time we meet (usually at Eydie‘s or our home) we talk and get to know each other better. I usually pull a few passages from my writing resource library to inspire discussion and then we do a few exercises. In the past, they might have consisted of writing about a piece of music one member shared. Sometimes I pick an interesting photo for us to write about. The ground rules are usually the same: write five minutes without lifting your pen, neither changing anything or crossing out. Then we share what we wrote with each other. We usually have a break and a snack or two.

At the moment, Inklings is doing a “chain” story. This exercise will probably take at least two months to complete. One person writes a chapter and then another adds another, etc. We usually have another home assignment. This month we are writing a description of someone, then next meeting we will compare notes. Last month, we shared our stories of one significant event in our lives.

We try to meet once a month, coordinating our schedules to pick a date. So far, it has all worked out. It has been a challenge to figure our how to include the virtual members in our group. E-mail and snail mail certainly help. We are still working that one out. But my goal remains the same: I want each person, present or virtual, to get better as a writer, to NOT compare their writings with others, but only to feel that they are improving as a writer. AND, to be encouraged to WRITE!!!

A bit more about me:

Our Inklings group ties in well with the web site I started in January — “Siggy’s Café for Writers and Poets”, www.siggyscafe.com, and my Blog, Siggy’s Blurbs (which I never expected to be doing, since I don’t like to type!) www.siggyscafe.com/Blog. Inklings and Siggy’s Café are encouraging me as well! At the web site, I want to encourage budding and experienced writers. There are articles on the writing process, a bibliography of suggested reading, inspirational quotes, current and classic poetry, a Word Of The Day, and more. There is also an article I wrote about the best record albums from the 1960’s & 1970’s that are still available today on CD. I absolutely love music, and to me one of the greatest things is sharing or recommending a wonderful piece of music to someone else. I love to write, I love to read my poetry in public, and I love to listen to music.

Should anyone wish to contact me about this post, or just to say hello, you can do so at: Siggy’s e-Mail.

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Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

November 26, 2008 at 9:26 am (Brother John, Family, Friends, Stories, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Cooking Thanksgiving with Uncle Mike

First of all, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. To any family members who were actually AT this Thanksgiving dinner, and actually READ this: I have a somewhat dim recollection of all the events that occurred but I’m going to write about them anyway. This is how I remember it!

It was the first Thanksgiving after Granny died and the whole family was making a special effort to get together for dinner at Granddad’s. My second husband Greg, my son Roger, and I had made the trip in from Indiana to stay at my parents for a nice long visit through the holidays. Rog was only about three and I was still in respiratory school. I volunteered to go over to Granddad’s the evening before to help Granddad shop, get the turkey ready, make the pies, sweet potato casserole, and anything else that could be done ahead of time. My Mom said she would stay home with Rog and then they would all come over early Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised when Uncle Mike said he would come down the night before and help with the cooking, but tickled too.

Uncle Mike has always been a very cool uncle. One year when Brother John got a microscope for Christmas Uncle Mike not only let us stick pins in his fingers a billion times so we could look at blood, he also let us look at skin flakes, boogers, arm hair, and spit. He would babysit us when we were kids. I don’t think we ever got to bed on time when Uncle Mike was there. I can remember being cranked up on soda and candy and jumping up and down on the bed yelling at the top of my lungs just for the sake of the irritating noise of it. Uncle Mike took it like a sport.

Now, by this time I was a grown up married lady and had had my hand up many a turkey’s cavity to fill it with stuffing, but mind you always with my Granny or my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law around for moral support. This would be my first solo run without a matriarch to guide me. But, I was no stranger to cooking and was ready for the task at hand. Sure I was.

I arrived at Granddad’s and after he greeted me with his usual “How are you Sweet Thing?” we settled in at the table to make lists. Or rather I made lists, consulted Granddad, and he read me bits and pieces from the newspaper and showed me the Thanksgiving cards he’d received. God love him, he wanted everything to be just like it was when Granny made Thanksgiving dinner. As he went down the list of food I began to feel the first creeping signs of unease. Surely in past years we hadn’t had all that food? Yes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, corn, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. But did we really have in addition corn bread, deviled eggs, pickled eggs and red beets, three bean chowder, Lima beans, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, stuffing balls, ham, pineapple upside down cake, cookies, apple dumplings, a pickle and olive tray, dips for pretzels and chips, and hot dogs for my son who at that time in his life ate nothing but hot dogs? How did Granny do it? Granddad had lovingly gotten out all of Granny’s recipes and placed them in a (towering) stack for me to look over.

Armed with my list, Granddad picked up his crutches (he’d been injured in an industrial accident several years back and had nearly lost his legs) and we went out to his big salmon colored Cadillac. Talk about a beautiful car. Leather seats as soft as butter. He handed me the keys and we floated our way into town. That car just about drove itself. I was doing 90 before I knew it. Granddad’s hand on the armrest never even tightened its grip, not even when we sort of sailed over a huge bump and I’m sure all four white walled tires left the ground.

Our first stop was the liquor store. I was a little puzzled when Granddad grabbed a shopping cart on the way in. I soon understood as he went down the aisles. “Now, Sweet Thing, get you a bottle of that Scotch you like, and get your Aunt Deb some of that stuff there, I forget what it’s called but that’s the bottle, and your cousin Tim drinks Jack Daniels and Kathy drinks Old Granddad and your dad likes a Seagram’s Seven and seven -up…” and the list went on and on. He knew what everyone from family members to family friends liked to drink and bought it. The bill was more than I took home in a week! I was thinking that all that liquor never took into consideration that most of the men hung out in Granddad’s shed before dinner and drank his homemade plum brandy anyway and smoked their cigarettes and cigars while he sharpened their pocket knives!

I pulled the now loaded Caddy into Granddad’s driveway, just missing the snow-ball bush to the right and the big walnut tree to the left (at least missing the big walnut tree THIS time) and pulled in beside Uncle Mike’s car. We got the groceries unloaded and it was time to cook. I forgot to mention that Granddad had gotten some of the groceries a day or so before I got there. To my consternation I saw that he had gotten real potatoes to make the mashed potatoes. Not the instant I had planned to make, then hide the box, and hope no one noticed. He had also gotten “real” bread cubes, four big bags of them, for the stuffing. No Stove Top, I sighed. Fortunately, Uncle Mike turned out to be a pretty good cook and took everything in stride. We got the turkey washed and the giblets cooked. (Granddad was horrified when I prepared to throw out the neck. No neck? “Why there’s some commin’ that’d soon have the neck as the whole dang turkey,” he said. By this time it was late, and things were moving along very slowly. Uncle Mike got the pumpkin pies in while I was peeling the hard boiled eggs to put in with the pickled beets. New eggs. New eggs that didn’t want to peel. Lots of new eggs that didn’t want to peel. Uncle Mike lent a hand and we made the most pitted and cratered plate of deviled eggs you ever saw. The pickled eggs floated in the dark beet juice looking like I had beat them with a stick. Uncle Mike said, “Tastes good, all that counts.”

Finally, just about everything was prepared. Granddad had long since nodded off at the kitchen table and was finally persuaded to go to bed. I was yawning and Uncle Mike kept saying, one more thing, and then I’ll go home for awhile and see you in the morning. The last thing on the agenda was the making of the stuffing balls. Now our family likes their stuffing done outside the turkey. We use an ice cream scoop to make balls of stuffing that are cooked in pans in the oven. The stuffing comes out crispy on the outside and the inside is moist enough to stick together but no more. Many a heated discussion has revolved around the stuffing balls and whether or not they were the desirable “bone dry” balls. Granny always got it just right. As we started to shake out the bags of bread cubes into the big mixing bowl I noticed what I thought was a piece of blue bread wrapper in the bowl. I picked it out, and then immediately spied another piece. “Uncle Mike,” I cried aghast, “these bread cubes are MOLDY.” Granddad had gotten the stuffing cubes a day or so ago and had put them on top of the refrigerator. The top of the fridge gets warm, the moisture left in the cubes provides a nice growth medium, and there you have it. We just looked at each other, knowing there was no place open (especially in those days) to buy more. Granddad only had a few slices of bread left in his loaf. So, we started picking mold off the cubes. Uncle Mike said, “penicillin won’t hurt you, right?” Now I’m thinking that that’s not the only kind of mold that can grow on bread, and some people are allergic to penicillin anyway. But, Thanksgiving dinner and no stuffing balls? There would be mutiny. So, until two A.M. I picked and pored over the bread cubes. Finally we made the stuffing balls, ready to pop in the oven come morning. We stored them in the fridge to retard further growth. Uncle Mike left for home and a few hours sleep and I poured myself a hefty Scotch, shed a few tears in the dishwater as I cleaned up, and started getting out the “good” dishes, serving spoons, extra silverware, and coffee cups.

Thanksgiving day dawned. I know it dawned because I saw it. I had gotten as far as putting on my pajamas after Uncle Mike left, but that was as close to beddy-bye as I got. As I watched the sun come up into a clear sky that promised a crisp perfect day I gave thanks that I was blessed with such a large loving family. I also prayed that no one would get sick from the meal, that I would manage to be awake for over 24 hours without becoming a demented shrew, and that Granny would forgive me my many trespasses in the preparation of the family meal.

My mom, dad, husband and son were the first to arrive, followed quickly by pretty much the world. Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, neighbors, friends, all were welcomed. Everywhere I looked I saw mouths filled with food. The kids were running around the table snatching an olive or pickle here, a cookie or some chips there. And then, it was the moment of truth. The turkey came out of the oven at the right moment and was done to perfection. The mashed potatoes I had delegated to mom with a certain amount of desperation. I had peeled them, I had cooked cooked them, and then she did all sorts of mysterious things with warm milk and butter and came up with smooth mounds of creamy goodness. I made Uncle Mike take the stuffing balls from the oven and pass them around to the ohhs and ahhs of anticipated satisfaction. The balls were lightly browned, pleasing to the eye. They smelled heavenly and I saw that most people took at least two. My dad took the first bite as I bit my tongue and he pronounced, “Bone dry.” The highest compliment. I felt my face turn as red as the pickled beets and I choked back the laughter that was holding hands with the urge to tell on myself. Mom patted my shoulder, “She’s shy.” I felt my face grow redder and added to myself, “and possibly a murderer.” I coughed and mom said, “I hope you’re not coming down with something.” Uncle Mike passed me a stuffing ball. “Here, fix you right up.” (Brother John here… ah yes… and I’m sure he said it with a twinkle in his eye… So much humor and irony expressed with so few words!)

I watched closely for the remainder of the day but no one’s throat swelled up forcing me to do an emergency tracheotomy with the pen Uncle Dave had given me that said, “From the desk of Dave Reed.” One of my second cousins DID throw up but I think that was due more to the entire box of chocolate covered cherries she had eated when no one was watching. By mid afternoon Granddad had run out of chairs and sofa’s for uncle’s to sleep on. Uncle Mike was stretched out on the lining room floor in front of the football game on TV. The snores were so loud and varied that we women giggled from the kitchen as we gossiped and washed dishes. There were no left over stuffing balls. My mom hugged me and said , “Granny would be proud of you.”

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News from Lansdowne

November 26, 2008 at 9:00 am (Brother John, Family, Places) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Brother John

Winter At Brother John's

Ah yes, now… now I’m starting to feel a tiny bit of holiday spirit! Lansdowne recently received her first snow of the season! It’s at times like this that I really enjoy having a huge picture window overlooking my front yard. I can stand there for long periods of time, watching the birds feeding, the squirrels playing, rabbits hopping around… it’s a magical winter wonderland! Kathy and I often call this view, “The Nature Channel”. (Perhaps we watch too much TV). Sleepy Cat'sBut our kitties enjoy it even more! (When they can keep their sleepy eyes open that is). To them, our picture window is way better than plain old TV! Pictured to the right is the “Cat Chair”.

Every cat we’ve ever served has loved that chair! I must admit that I too enjoy sitting on it at night to do a little reading. Sarah Jane wraps her body around my neck and purrs and purrs. The warmth of her body and the vibration from her purring is one of the best natural massages to be found!

Dad's Invention

Sister Eydie mentioned that Kathy and I had been in the hospital. Kathy has Muscular Dystrophy and had quite suddenly developed difficulty breathing. It was so sudden, in fact, that we actually became trapped in our own house! We have a machine that assists Kathy’s breathing at night, allowing her to breathe on her own during the day. But suddenly she was actually using that machine for total life support. Fortunately, I provided our home with a powerful generator capable of running the entire house should we lose power from the local grid. So we were fairly safe in our house, and we had some backup to her breathing equipment which made us safer still. As a programmer, I have the ability to work from home, and we found ourselves unable to leave the safety of our home.

It took quite a bit of ingenuity on our part to try to do something about our dilemma, but I eventually worked out a plan with the private Ambulance company (STAT Medical Transport). We managed to get Kathy into the Emergency Department at our “favorite” hospital, The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Nice hospital!!! We then moved from the Emergency Department into HUP’s Medical Intensive Care Unit (M.I.C.U.), (primarily because Kathy was considered to be on life support at that time).

It was in the M.I.C.U. that we discovered Kathy had about nine pounds of fluid pressing on her lungs which make it impossible for her to breathe on her own without mechanical assistance. The fluid was being caused by a defect in her heart known as Diastolic Dysfunction. We managed to get the extra fluid out of Kathy during our stay in the M.I.C.U., but we also learned another thing.

During the night, each and every night, Kathy’s blood pressure would suddenly drop out from under her. It would become so dangerously low, that it set off alarms on the monitoring equipment attached to her. This also could have been a contributing factor to her extra fluid in that during the night, her kidney’s were not receiving proper blood flow. Limited blood meant limited oxygen. Limited oxygen meant improper functioning kidney’s and even damage to Kathy’s organs.

So we began a complicated “game” of finding the best way to prevent Kathy from building up fluid, combined with the best way to have her blood pressure under proper control during the night. Our insurance company could see that this could possibly take some time, time they didn’t want Kathy to be spending in an expensive M.I.C.U. So they shipped us both out of our favored hospital and into an unknown Long Term Care facility (L.T.A.C.).

At the L.T.A.C., our goals were three:

  • Figure out the exact amount of diuretics Kathy required to assist her in keeping off the extra fluids without also causing damage to her kidneys.
  • Figure out the exact amount of blood pressure medication it would take, to maintain her higher blood pressure during the day, yet wear off in time for sleep so that it wouldn’t drop critically low.
  • With the fluid off, retrain Kathy’s lungs and muscles to permit her to wean herself from daytime assisted mechanical breathing devices.

We nicely accomplished the first two simply because we were almost at that point anyway by the end of our stay at the M.I.C.U. Our hope was that the L.T.A.C. would have intelligent techniques to teach Kathy how to wean herself from what had become total life support. We were sorely disappointed. I won’t go into the details of what Kathy endured at the L.T.A.C. other then to say she wouldn’t be with us today had I not been constantly by her side.

Bottom line was I got her out of there with great haste.

We got Kathy a portable non-invasive ventilator. My dad rigged up an attachment that holds a mouth piece near Kathy’s mouth. When she wants air, she causes her chair to recline (in a forward direction) until the mouth piece enters her mouth. She takes in as much air as she needs. Then she reclines the chair away from the mouth piece and breathes on her own. Using this technique, she is spending less and less time seeking the assisted breaths, and is doing more of the work on her own.

I’m happy to report that she continues to breathe on her own more and more each day. All because of the non-invasive portable vent. And we can finally get out of the house! Yay!

I’m not so happy to report another thing. Our insurance company has so far denied covering the cost of the expensive non-invasive portable vent. They have gone against the prescription and order of her physician. We have initiated what is known as a physician to physician appeal.

And I’m even unhappier to report something that just came to me via a received phone call. Evidently the physician to physician appeal was rejected by the insurance company. We will have to give back the non-invasive ventilator on Friday or Monday. Kathy’s bummed.


Walt's Philly Cheese Steaks

Since I hate ending things on a sour note, let’s just say I ended this one on a fatty one. Yes, I went to Walt’s Philly Style Cheese Steaks (the best in Delaware County!!!) and I treated myself to a heart attack on a plate! Yum! I ate the best mushroom cheese steak I’ve ever had (well… since the last time I ate at Walt’s that is 🙂 ). And they have these delicious crunchy onion Rings that are just to die for! I washed it all down with a giant fountain Coke and man… I was in heaven (or would soon be).

Inside Walt's Steaks

Walking into Walt’s is like stepping back in time. Everything is colorful and quaint and has the feel of days gone by. Much of the art is antique and classic. The service is fast and friendly and the prices are quite reasonable. You won’t go home hungry! As I sat at one of the small square tables, I found myself near several groups of friendly customers who were all having a great time. Even though I was by myself, I found myself smiling often, somehow becoming a part of the shared community. All in all, it was a great way to end out the day (and my low sodium diet).

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Excitement Over My New Book!

November 17, 2008 at 7:48 am (Authors, Books, Bottles, Brother John, Carboy, Family, Mead Making, poetry, Siphon, Uncategorized, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Welcome Back Brother John and Kathy

First I’d like to say, “Welcome home Brother John and Kathy!” I may work in a hospital but it’s the LAST place I’d want to spend 24/7 time for nearly two weeks. Especially, in Kathy’s case, being poked with needles, tied to monitors, and a being a guinea pig to the whims of residents who HOPE this medicine or this test will fix the problem that they HOPE they have figured out. Medicine is not an exact science but it is an exasperating one! And, in Brother John’s case, days of sleeping in a chair, not being provided with a place to shower, having to eat cafeteria food and Kathy’s leftovers, and making sure that doctors realize they have to wash their hands just like inferior people all can make you just want to curl up and have a Twinkie. Brother John will have to expound on their adventures in ICU land.

Announcing My New Book Of Poetry!

On Thursday I officially turned my book of poetry over to the printers! I am obnoxiously excited and beg forgiveness for shameless self promotion but this has been my dream for so long. Number one on the old bucket list! I had been working pretty hard the last several weeks to get everything in the correct form. I’m not very computer literate and the pictures I was trying to place kept jumping all over the screen, growing larger and smaller at whim, knocking my text right off the page, or disappearing entirely. Last Saturday was a cold, drizzly day so I worked steadily on the book, progressing from page 17 to page 65, typing in poems I only had in hard copy, searching for elusive photos I KNEW we had somewhere in the big Rubbermaid vat of photos, picture CDs, and negatives, and writing the “thank-you”page, content page, and cover pages. Then, I hit a whole slew of poems that needed to be typed into the format and I was so tired. I was whining to Sammy and he came up with the idea that they could be copied from a poetry site I belong to. And then he somehow hit the “X” button. Now, despite what I have been told over and over again, I hadn’t saved any of my day’s work. Yup, back to page 17. I stomped around the house cursing, I slammed the refrigerator door and kitchen cupboards, I finally grabbed the keys and ran out into the rain. I drove to the top of the ridge and sat in the car and pounded the steering wheel and cursed some more and wailed and boohooed. Then I drove back home, made a pot of strong coffee, and re-entered everything. By 4:30 AM the darn book was done except for proofreading and a little editing. Poor Sammy made me the biggest, most beautiful breakfast in the morning.

So, Thursday we drove to the printers. I had everything on disk, which I copied, including a copy for the fire safe. I had a hard copy (one in the fire safe too). The meeting went smoothly and well, even though I had to pop a couple of Mylanta and wished for a much stronger deodorant. I had a little trouble actually handing over the disk and hard copy. My fingers just didn’t want to let go. I did ask them to make sure they tucked in my poems before bed, didn’t let them go out and play in the rain, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, maybe sing to them just a little. Yup, they think I’m a crazy lady. So, December 1st my poems will come back to me in perfect binding form with an ISBN and a price tag. I may have to break out the Scotch. I DID break out the Apple Jack after we left the printer.

It may have been the high spirits, it may have been the Apple Jack “spirits”, but on the way home Sammy had to forcibly restrain me from using the pellet gun on the large inflatable turkey someone had decorated their yard with. I have a deep, abiding dislike of inflatable yard decorations. This dislike leaves pet peeves in the dust and borders on inflatable serial killer rage. First the inflatables started popping up at Christmas. Then I saw inflatable spiders, ghosts, and a seven foot tall Frankenstein at Halloween. Now the turkey. I don’t want to make light of anybody’s right to tacky lawn decoration, but they do make my trigger finger itch.

Take A Look At Our Beautiful Young Mead!

Speaking of alcoholic beverages, the mead is bottled! At the moment the pantry is empty of carboys. We bottled a case of small beer sized bottles and a case and a half of fifths. Young as it is, the Minsi Mountain Mead has a mellow, somewhat earthy flavor. Not too dry, not too sweet. Now it should age for at least a year. We’ll see…

Each year I try to knit several little Christmas gifts. This year I was so excited because I found a knitted slipper pattern that had belonged to our Granny. I remember those slippers. Every family member had a pair in whatever colors Granny happened to have yarn scraps enough for. They were great for skating down the hallway. I can’t remember which cousin it was (I’m thinking cousin Tim) who had the bright idea to lemon pledge the hall first and then skate down it wearing the Granny slippers but that worked GREAT! Kids, try this at home. (I mean knitting slippers but the hallway slide part is pretty good too!) The slippers are an easy pattern to make. (You can follow the pattern here: Granny’s Knitted Slippers but come back when you are done!). I made my first pair the other night after 40 years of slipper less knitting. I chose a thick brown wool and then knitted a narrow cashmere trim to line the foot opening. Unfortunately the kittens think my slippered foot is the best play toy ever invented. I may have to knit them their own pair. They keep dragging the slippers all over the house at night. Usually a soggy chewed on slipper finds its way into the bed during our day sleep.

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is nearly here. I still haven’t finished all the fall projects (like winterizing the shed where the outside cats sleep and sorting through the flower seeds I harvested.) I do have the heater running in the cat shed and the old comforters washed and set out on the shelves in there. Big Fat Sherman refuses to leave the shed in the winter so he has a litter box even though the whole world could be his litter box. I have neurotic cats.

I remember one Thanksgiving when my second husband Greg was alive. He was quite a good hunter and had shot a fine big turkey with the shot gun. I skinned it, cooked it with all the trimmings (mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, corn, pumpkin pie) and made myself a nice lunch to take to work. Greg and Roger had gone to mom and dad’s for Thanksgiving and stopped by afterward to see me at work and brought ANOTHER whole plate of food! I had been working with one of the hospital residents who was from Russia and had never had a “true American Thanksgiving” I had spoken of the food in glowing terms during the shift and decided, since I now had two dinners, to share the one I had brought with him. I heated everything up and eagerly awaited his opinion. Well, it seemed that I hadn’t gotten all the shot out of the turkey and the resident’s first experience of an American Thanksgiving resulted in a broken tooth and a first visit to an American dentist. Also, I had over microwaved the mashed potatoes and he had to chisel his way through them. The stuffing like wise was “bone dry” and as he struggled politely through it I thought I was going to have to give him his first American Heimlich maneuver.

We had a little bit of a snow shower as Sammy was driving us to work last night. Combined with my double header of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Wizzard of Oz” that I watched before coming into work, I’d have to say I’m getting into the holiday spirit. There’s nothing like holiday movies, a nice fire in the wood stove and (you guessed it) my pajamas to make me a happy girl. Add a little snow falling outside, put a cup of hot tea on the coffeetable and some Granny slippers knitting in my hands and I’m a very happy girl.

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Cutting Firewood To Make Nut Brittle

October 7, 2008 at 12:32 am (Andrew Davidson, Arrowheads, Artifacts, Asplundh, Authors, bee hive, Bees, Books, Brother John, Butterflies, Companies, Dogs, Fair Paladin, Family, Fossils, Friends, German Shepherd, GOD, Hiking, Hobbies, honey, Insects, Jasper, mandolin, Monarch, music, Nut Brittle, Pets, Places, poetry, Recipes, Religious, Ricketts Glen State Park, Sylvia, The Gargoyle, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

When you chop a walnut tree, sometimes you harvest walnuts!

Sammy and I had had great aspirations of filling our wood shed to overflowing when we were off on our “working vacation” a few weeks ago. And we did bring in several loads. Then, the rains came. Not for 40 days and 40 nights, although the people of Texas probably felt that way, but enough to make our access into the fields a mucky nightmare. So, this past Thursday we sallied forth (well, Sally didn’t go, only room for two in the truck plus Jasper) to our unidentified neighbor’s farm to cut a load of firewood. It was actually chilly, intermittently overcast and with a stiff breeze blowing. Enough so that I had an old gray sweat jacket on and came home with pink ears and a somewhat windburned face. Our neighbor had cut several trees down that grew along the access drive to his 100 acre property. He had done this so that in the winter the sun would be able to reach the road surface and melt some of the ice. I’d been on that road a few years ago when it was possible to skate (or in my case slide on my backside) down the length of it to where the truck was parked at the bottom, unable to make it any further up the drive.

The first tree Sammy began cutting was a nice sized walnut. It was big enough to provide that day’s truckload of wood. And, it was covered with walnuts. I’ve already mentioned that I have this quirky survivalist mentality. To me, a tree full of easily accessible walnuts means a source of protein for the winter should society fail completely and Sammy and I be unable to keep us in squirrel and deer meat in the style to which we are accustomed. The walnuts also mean my favorite nuts for Dad’s Microwave Nut Brittle. The first year he made this stuff (two or three years ago) I thought it couldn’t possibly be any good. Wrong. I put that first piece in my mouth and it had just the right crunch of nutty goodness. Let it stay in your mouth a bit and the whole mess melts into a sweet sticky glue that renders you incapable of separating your jaws for several minutes. (Great for kids if you know what I mean!) Dad has since doctored the recipe to include coconut, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter. I’m going to experiment with (of course) honey this year. I have to laugh at this mental image I have of Dad bringing out the container of nut brittle at Christmas time. It’s like the pied piper if you can picture a gaggle of (mostly) overweight middle aged adults all trying to get their sticky hands into the smallish plastic container at the same time and fighting over the “big” pieces.

My job, when we are cutting wood, is all the ancillary duties. Sammy cuts, I load the truck. I also pull aside and stack the ends of branches too small to cut, hold pieces still as Sammy cuts them, pull out fallen (and usually brier covered) limbs and dead fall, and play with Jasper in between. (Brother John here… I once worked for the tree trimming company Asplundh and, except for Jasper…, these were also my daily duties. The person doing this type of duty was called a “Brushy” back in the day). Well, to add to my list, there were walnuts to collect because, (chant with me Brother John, and Sylvia, you’ve been around enough to join in too) “NOTHING MUST BE WASTED!” I had no idea how many walnuts a tree has when the entire tree has been cut and all the nuts can be harvested. And, not knowing the nuts would be there, I hadn’t brought a bag along. Imagine. I was unprepared! After a minute or so of abject humiliation, and after shortly abandoning the thought of filling my jacket pockets 20 or so nuts at a time, I graciously volunteered Sammy’s jacket (which he wasn’t wearing) and started loading it up with nuts. Each jacket load I would then dump in the front foot well of the passenger’s seat of the truck. Why I didn’t just throw them in the back I don’t know. Maybe nuts and wood, like oil and water, don’t mix in my head. Anyway, by the time the truck was loaded with wood I had enough walnuts to reach up to the seat. I sat in the seat, my feet resting on a mountain of walnuts, and realized that with the back full, Jasper had to ride up front. On my lap. Seventy-five pounds and I hadn’t peed before we took off for home (on some of the finest washboard dirt roads ever traveled).

When we pulled up the driveway I had Sammy stop at the top and let me offload first Jasper (who had enjoyed the trip home immensely, with “Mom” serving as a captive petting machine) and then the walnuts. Drive around the county this time of year and you’ll see many a driveway full of walnuts. The walnut comes off the tree with a thick green hull. This turns brown as it dries. This hull has long been a natural source of brown dye. The first time I hulled walnuts I used my bare hands. I had dyed brown hands for nearly a week. Now I do what everyone else does and throw them in the drive way to be driven over until all the soft hull has been worn off. These hard walnut shells are so tough that even driving over them doesn’t crack them. They scoff at traditional nutcrackers. (Brother John here… I always wondered why people did that! I always figured the nuts would get smashed into little bits, making that a very stupid thing to do. Now I get it Sis!). I place a few nuts in a rag and then take the hammer to them. Dad uses a vise, I think. I’m open to a better suggestion. But, it is one of the late autumn/winter pastimes when the weather is nasty. Sit around the wood stove, crack some walnuts while Sammy cleans a rifle or plays a little sweet guitar. A truly rustic picture. Completed by the image that I am, of course, in my pajamas.

Tomorrow we are going to get a few more loads of wood and meet up with our unidentified neighbor who will be cutting down a couple of the larger trees that still shade the drive. I’m hoping that after the work is done he’ll suggest a walk. He has lived in the area all his life and has shared some amazing discoveries with us. I have been along when a wild honeybee tree was harvested (the bees had swarmed and were given a new hive to populate). I’ve seen heavily fossilized shale covered with the imprints of shells and algae. I went along arrowhead hunting and collected blanks and pieces of arrowheads along with one that was complete. One day we walked into a field of wildflowers. He clapped his hands and suddenly the air was full of fluttering Monarch butterflies that landed on our arms, head, and clothes.

I always keep my “other” eyes open when I am out in the woods and fields. My imagination fills them with fairy worlds that live just beside the one we know. I often feel something else, an energy, or presence, or spirit. These days I call it God. I call it all God. It could be called many things. But I know, on those fall days when I lie in a cut field and feel the earth cool beneath my shoulder blades and the sun is warm on my face and a red tailed hawk soars searching in the blue sky above me, I know that there IS more. It gathers beneath me, goes through me, and connects with things unseen. One of my poems, “Fair Paladin” came from the magic the special places hold, or at least that I imagine they hold.

I have a bucket list. For those that didn’t see the movie, it’s stuff you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket. I have three things on my list so far. I plan to live to be a hundred and three so I’m hoping to add a few more.

  1. I want to get my book of poetry published. It’s so close. I want to see it on the Arts Council shelf and on the local artist shelf at Borders. I want my mom to be there when I do my first book signing, hopefully at the Arts Council where I’ll provide homemade blackberry, elderberry, and mead wines for my friends (and maybe a stranger or two) to drink. I want someone to pay real money for a copy of my book.
  2. I want to walk through an airport carrying my fiddle or mandolin to take it on a plane to somewhere and know that I actually play the darn thing well enough to deserve to carry it through an airport.
  3. Goblins Under Tree Stumps #1 Goblins Under Tree Stumps #2
    Fairy Houses Alligator Jawed Dragons
    Hunting for Ice Eggs Ice Egg in the Sky
    Walking Tree Ents #1 Walking Tree Ents #2

    I want to take a hike on the falls trails at Ricketts Glen State Park on a perfect day in the company of someone who sees and feels and loves the magic I talked about earlier as much as I do (Sammy and Brother John would do nicely.) We’ll find goblins under tree stumps, fairy houses, alligator jawed dragons, ice eggs, and walking tree Ents.

  4. Eydie, Brother John here. I have no imagination it would seem. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out which “other eye” vision each of these represent. Hover the mouse and you’ll see one idea, and click on the item to see that and other ideas. It would help greatly if you would define which is which. And maybe throw in a bit of real description as well. Ricketts Glen State Park looks very nice!
The Gargoyle - By Andrew Davidson - An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

But for now, Sammy is out sharpening the chainsaw on the living room coffee table and me (in my pajamas), a novel (The Gargoyle), and the big brown chair have developed this undeniable attraction for each other. Throw the blue gingham angel quilt into the mix and I won’t be long for this world… Zzzzz.

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Ghost Story II (Phantom Dog)

October 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm (Ghost, Hiking, Jasper, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Ghost Dog

I woke up early this morning and thought I’d sit down and word ramble a little while the level in my coffee diminished. A departure from my usual mornings (or whatever passes for morning in our night shifter world!) Usually I rather arthritically moan and groan my way out of bed and move slowly to the coffee pot. I save the leftover coffee from the day before so a first cup can speedily warm in the microwave. As it warms I get the coffee pot going with fresh coffee. I’d like to say that I then stand at the kitchen window and watch the birds busy at the feeders, assess the approach of fall in the first leaves dropped from the three maples that stand by the swing, and generally absorb the nature of the day.

I’d like to say that (and, in fact, I DID just say that), but it would be a winky tinky lie. The truth is that invariably I take my first cup of coffee back into the bedroom where I make the bed. My Granny ingrained this in me so strongly that I will make beds in hotel rooms even when I know housekeeping is two doors down waiting for me to depart, even when we get up through the night for an hour or so during our usually insomniac nights off, even when I am washing our favorite linens that I intend to put right back on. Some of my early memories are of staying with Granny overnight. I’d sleep up in the finished attic. There was a double bed up there that Brother John got, and I had the single bed. It was one that had an old iron headboard. When we would go downstairs in the morning, Granny would ask sweetly (she NEVER raised her voice), “Did you make your bed honey?” She would never ask that if I had. She had this Granny ESP. I would turn around and head back upstairs and the habit has followed me all of my days. This habit (and dare I say others) didn’t stick with Brother John. He used to pay me to clean his room and I think if I lived closer he would STILL pay me to clean his room. (Brother John here… Yep! I’d pay. And pay gladly! And pay often!). Thinking about it, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had ever defied Granny. No one ever did. She never yelled, she never punished, she never argued. The most we ever heard was, “Now you don’t want to make Granny cross do you?” For us, that was like hearing, “Now you don’t want to have single-handedly stuck a knife in my heart or set fire to a house of poor, sick orphans, do you?” There would be no need for water boarding or any other torture methods if Granny was doing the interrogating. That one little statement and the worst terrorist would be on his knees sobbing.

Anyway, digression completed, after the bed is made I usually start right in to the daily house chores and whatever other tasks the day holds. By the time I’ve finished my hips, knees, and ankles are all loosened up and mostly ache free and I have satisfied my little obsessive compulsive soul with ACCOMPLISHMENT. (Uh, yeah. I do have a check off list…)

Oh, another thing. I wake up EVERY morning without fail with a song in my head. And believe me, that song is not choosy. It could be a song I’ve been learning on the fiddle or mandolin, it could just as easily be a commercial jingle, disco refrain, gospel chorus, Scottish reel, classical aria, or hillbilly ballad, my head doesn’t care. (Brother John here… a mild interruption. I too ALWAYS wake up with a song in my head. Must be a family thing). Many times I don’t even LIKE the song and go around begging Sammy to give me another tune, or turn music or the TV on. And, not only do I often not like the song, I never seem to know any more than a line or two of the words, so I get the same tiny piece that I do know repeating over and over. This morning, for example, as I sit here, it’s “Low Rider” by War. “Take a little trip, take a little trip, take a little trip with me.” Oh yeah. I used to play a mental game. Whatever the first complete song was that I heard on the radio after I got into my car to drive to work, would be the predictor of my shift. “Dream a Little Dream”, good. “Welcome to the Jungle”, bad. I finally stopped doing that when I realized that there were not nearly as many songs about nature and flowers and love as there were about cheatin’ slime bags or environmental decay.

Anyway, another digression completed. What I started to say was that October is here. Another season is making its self heard and seen and smelled. And remembered. About four or five years ago I had gotten into jogging. It started when my friend Anita and I started walking and yakking about husbands, work, kids, life, etc. Then we started jogging on the down hills, then jogging on the flats, then the little uphills. Before I knew it we were jogging four days a week, four to seven miles at a shot, and looking pretty fit as a result. (These days I walk, and not as often, and my figure reflects it.) On the days that we couldn’t get together, I would go by myself. This is a little October ghost story about something that happened while I was jogging.

My favorite time to jog was in the evening when the sun was low in the sky. I would try to time it so that I could catch the sunset on the top of Asper Hill first, then again as I rounded back to Knisely Hill. That meant that by the time I finished my usual four and a half mile loop and came down through the hollows, it would be just light enough to see my shoes hit the pavement. I liked the feeling that I was pushing the night back a little with each footfall. Most times I would take Jasper. At the time of this story we had only had him about a year. He was well behaved enough to never stray far, come right away when I called, and not fight with other dogs we might come across. But on this jog I didn’t take him. Archery season had come in. There would be both neighbors and strangers in the surrounding woods, at that time of day just heading out to walk or drive home. Around these parts, dogs who run deer are shot on site by some, and even though Jasper doesn’t have that habit, a loose dog could be conceived as possibly running deer, and shot by some. I’m not coordinated enough to have him leashed and jog at the same time, so I put his very reluctant (bribing with lunch meat was required) butt into the Dog Run. Our other dog at the time was our sweet Jack. Jack had recently developed a bulging vertebrae that was causing him to have tremors in his back legs and some instability, and so couldn’t have gone either. (Jack’s condition was caused by a congenital defect that worsened with maturity, and eventually caused complete paralysis of his back legs. We only had him a year and had to have him put to sleep when he was only three, but he was a good, sweet, wonderful member of our family.) So, I set off alone, to the tune of mournful howling dogs, wearing an orange vest, reflector tape, and carrying mace. My husband (second husband) didn’t like it when I jogged during hunting season because there WERE strangers who would come in to hunt. I argued that they were strangers, yes, but to be hunting on our neighbor’s property I would think the neighbors would know who they were…

The first long leg of my jog was up Asper Hill. Back then I could jog the whole thing. It may not have been pretty and involved panting and sweating, but once I made it to the top I always turned around and jogged backwards for a few paces to enjoy the view. From the top of Asper Hill I could see The Big Buffalo mountain in Newport, seven miles away. I could see Middle Ridge, the next big ridge south of me, and see several lesser ridges with the sun just angling to catch the first leaf changes in an amber glow. As I headed over the top and started down to the plateau on the other side, I smelled woodsmoke as someone burned a pile of brush. The plateau is always one of my favorite places. Secluded, the corn, wheat, and soy fields often have feeding deer, wild turkeys coming up to the high land to roost, a fat groundhog that fed by the roadside, and a fox I had seen four or five times. I headed down into the first small hollow, where a few weeks ago I had seen a magnificent eight point buck standing on the edge of the woods, and took a left onto Buckwheat Rd. This part of my jogging loop has the most traffic and is bordered by houses and corn fields. As I was jogging along I heard a truck that needed some muffler work coming up the road behind me. I got way over to the side of the road. People on Buckwheat tend to drive way too fast. The truck slowed behind me and then came up beside me. I was used to people asking directions, neighbors stopping to rib me a little and tell me to jog faster, so I looked over at the occupants of the truck anticipating a pleasant little break.

Talk about Perry County scary. I live in a county that is still very much rural Pennsylvania and gets a lot of redneck and hillbilly jokes, and some of them are deserved. It’s also a county that has more than its share of artists, musicians, poets, artisans, and intelligent, literate, creative people who still have all their teeth, but the two men I found myself looking at were not examples of the latter. The first thing I noticed through the open window was the smell. A combination of very old sweat and beer fumes was radiating out of the truck. A lot of hunters will hang their hunting clothes outside to get rid of “human” smells. These guys had may have been hanging their clothes outside but if so, had neglected to ever wash them, ever. It was a mossy oak patterned fugue. Archery season was in , but these guys had rifles sitting on the floor and resting on the bench seat in between them. The driver had a few weeks worth of beard that was stained with tobacco juice. He spat out the window, just missing my shoes, and gave me a glimpse of a few yellow teeth, a few brown teeth, and lots of spaces where there SHOULD have been teeth. He backhanded off the tobacco juice that dripped into his scruff, missing most of it, and said, “What you runnin’ from there, missy?” The other guy, younger, long really greasy hair, muscular arms (he had the top of his camouflaged hunting coverall around his waist to show a ripped and stained t-shirt with the sleeves and neck cut out) and a big beer belly. I could see tufts of belly hair straining out of the rips in the shirt. This guy giggled (a nasty little sound) took a swig of beer from the can he had between his legs, backhanded the dribbled beer from his two or three day shadowed face, and repeated, “runnin’ from, he he he.” I would have, had I been a man, been hearing the theme from “Deliverance”. As it was, I felt the sweat trickling down my back become cold, and my mind start to whirl furiously with thoughts. Like, that they didn’t have a scrap of required hunter orange anywhere about them. Poachers. I don’t have much of a problem with food hunters out of season, although the government differs from me on that point, but I just didn’t have that feeling about these guys. The back of the old sea green, primer, and rust colored pickup was full of beer cans. I also thought that I don’t know them, I don’t have my dog, it’s nearly dark, and the next stretch of my loop is very isolated. I’m also calculating the best place to jump off the road and run if I need to, figuring that I am in good shape, they obviously aren’t, I know this area and the people who live here, and it’s nearly dark. I could get rid of the orange reflective vest as I ran and disappear in the woods in seconds. I’m also thinking, that might just be something that only works in movies.

Well, just them a car came along that DID have a couple of neighbors in it. They stopped to chat and my buddies in the truck moved on. The neighbors moved on too and I started jogging again. As I headed down a little hill before I made the next turn on to Knisely Hill road, I saw, around the next bend, pulled off into a field access road, the sea green truck. “Crap!”, I thought. To turn back or bypass Knisely Hill would mean several miles of jogging in the full dark. I also had to work that night and would be late. I said a little prayer and turned on Knisely. About that time I heard paw pads behind me. They were just there all at once, but I did have other things on my mind at the moment and figured I just didn’t notice. Lots of the neighbor’s dogs would come up and greet me as I jogged, but usually with a lot of barking and fuss about it. This dog was silent. I had had my hand on the mace ever since my conversation with the cretins and I turned. Trotting behind me was one of the biggest dogs I’d ever seen, and not one I recognized. He had red fur like an Irish setter, but a big woolly head and deep barreled chest like a Newfoundland. He wagged his tail, mouth open and panting, and I relaxed a little. “Hey boy”, I said. I put out my hand, palm up, in case he wanted to sniff me and be petted but he kept just out of reach. So, I started jogging again and he passed me and started loping in front of me. I talked to him, and he would turn his head and perk his ears up to listen. I was so distracted by this big, beautiful, shaggy stranger that I forgot momentarily my other not so beautiful shaggy strangers until I realized we were going by their truck. The doors opened and the younger guy got out. The driver had one foot on the ground and stood, leaning against the door. Both had beers. “Hey Missy, why doncha come talk a bit?” “He he he, yeah, come talk?” “Aw come on, we’ll give you a beer.” “Yeah, beer.” The younger guy took a few steps away form the truck and I got the impression he was either going to urinate or expose himself right there in front of me. Just then the big red dog crossed over to their side of the road. “Holy crap, lady, where’d you get the DOG!” Young guy backed slowly back to the truck and stood behind the open door. I jogged desperately on, hearing the dog’s paws behind me. Then I heard the truck start up, pull out, and turn (thank you Lord) in the opposite direction. As the sound of the un-muffled exhaust faded away I turned back to my protector, thinking that if he followed me home he was going to get the biggest, juiciest hamburger I could make before I tried to find his owners. There was NOTHING there! Now, it had only been seconds since the creeps had driven away and I had been hearing footpads behind me. I was jogging along a field of soybeans. Even though they hadn’t been harvested the dog was way bigger than they were. Even though it was now dusk, I could see clearly for some distance in all directions as I circled around looking for him. I called, “Hey, dog, red boy.” He was just gone as quickly as he had appeared.

Did I have an angel? Was he a ghost? I asked around over the next several days, thinking maybe someone had guests up to hunt who had brought their dog. I also asked about the sea green truck. And, I changed my jogging times and course for awhile. Sometimes when you need a little miracle, you get one. There have been two or three other times since, when I have been out walking, that I have THOUGHT I heard footpads behind me. Once I was so sure of it I put out my hand in back of me expecting a friendly lick. Nothing. I almost expect to hear a story one day about a big red dog that some old farmer owned generations ago…

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A visit with Brother John!

August 3, 2008 at 10:00 am (Family, Mead Making, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Like I said, Sammy and I were having a really good weekend. On Sunday, we decided to drive down to Lansdowne to visit Brother John and Kathy. My parents were going to be there and the menu was BLT’s with fresh homegrown garden tomatoes, fresh homegrown corn on the cob, and fresh homegrown peaches for dessert. Our dad has the Midas touch, the ultimate green thumb of gardening. It’s like gardening is a religion and he is the high priest. Each year he brings us buckets and small cartloads of fresh fruit and veggies. Both Brother John and Kathy, and Sammy and I strongly believe that it is the deepest sacrilege to let any of this bounty go to waste. (In fact, Brother John wrote his first, and only poem about just that very thing! Check it out in our Poetry Section). And since I have my own albeit less than worthy garden, we’ve learned to improvise. In true Bubba Gump fashion I make fried squash, squash in salads, squash casserole, squash pancakes, squash bread, squash pickles, canned squash, squash soup, squash and broccoli in cheese sauce. I’ve been known to lie awake in panic thinking I should get up and go eat a raw squash just to reduce the sheer numbers needing consumption.

Dad 'Making Bacon'

Well, shortly after we arrived, Dad, Sammy and I started husking corn. Now my Mom has the deepest of aversions to even the tiniest scrap of corn silk. So we sat outside in the warm (freaking hot) sun talking (and sweating) about gardening, the corn crop of Sammy and I that was beautiful and bountiful and inedible because the the sewage leak, and picked the corn silk off a dozen or so ears for about an hour. Then Dad started cooking bacon while Mom and I cut and peeled tomatoes (another ick for my mom, tomato skin), and cut up lettuce. Sammy peeled the peaches (naked fruit is popular in my family.) We kept trying to get Dad to let someone take over the bacon while he sat down (he’s headed for a knee replacement in a few weeks) but, no one, repeat no one, can cook perfect bacon like Dad. We didn’t argue with him too much because we all know that, no one, repeat no one, can cook perfect bacon like Dad.

After we ate to the explosion point (I did go light on the corn at only four ears smothered with butter and salted like the briny sea) and cleaned up the dishes, I wandered over to the music cases and got out the mandolin. I picked out a few tunes while Brother John opened up Sammy’s guitar case. Sammy was already deep in a postprandial nap sitting up on the couch with his head thrown back, five seconds away from the rumbling snores that accompany his Bipap-less sleeps. Dad was on the big chair with that glazed look in his eyes that said a nap was ambling in his direction. Brother John started poking Sammy in the stomach with the guitar, poking harder and harder until Sammy finally stirred with a “I don’t want to go to work, ten more minutes.” I made the mistake of getting up to pee and lost the mandolin to John’s possession is nine tenths… I hadn’t brought the fiddle this time so I had to sing. We don’t get together very often so we do more pickin’ (trying to find a good key) and grinnin’ (oops, not that key) than tuneful artistry. I always had the reputation of only being able to carry a tune if I had a stout bucket, and only having a maybe one octave range on a good day, but Mom sang in a barbershop quartet for years and Brother John and Sammy are no strangers to a melody so we get the job done. We played and sang our grandfather’s usual tunes (Redwing, Old Joe Clark, Sourwood Mountain, and You Are My Sunshine) and Wildwood Flower, and some old hymns like I’ll Fly Away and Swing Low. My mom stole the harmony parts which I usually sing so I was haphazardly doing lead. I hate being Captain Kirk, I want to be Mr. Spock. But it was fun. Mom and Dad left and we picked around some Celtic tunes I like (House Carpenter, Star of the County Down, Sweet Afton) and then it was time for us to go. We discussed the proposed mead adventure standing by our car outside in the beautiful evening air while the mosquitoes treated Sammy like my Dad’s fresh garden produce and then started for home.

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