Yearning for Nostalgia: When Craftsmanship Mattered

Have you ever walked around an old city filled with beautiful architecture and marveled at the craftsmanship that went into each element?

A house in Zdiar, Slovakia, crafted without nails.

The lucky chandelier and painted ceiling of the Town Hall in Levoca, Slovakia

Have you ever looked at the craftsmanship of things created by hand centuries ago that have somehow survived the ages?

Have you ever thought about what we’ve lost in a world where production is made easier through technology, but somehow it leads to cookie cutter homes and replicas of pieces that were labored over for hours in times past?

I was reminded of this yesterday, when we met some friends a the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT. I recently read a book whose main character restored carousel horses, so I found the tour or the museum fascinating, with the details coming to life about how the magnificent creatures were created.

A horse’s head coming to life.

I loved the idea that the  Master carved the Elegant  side of the animal (the side which would face out), while the apprentice practiced his craft on the plain side.

Carousel horse

Carousel horse (Photo credit: vpickering)

I was amused (although perhaps not surprised ) to learn that women were not allowed to ride on carousels until they added chariots.  I fell in love with a child’s chariot that had no top or bottom so even taller children could ride.

I wanted to take this home from the museum.

I was blown away by the people who had built miniature carousels and donated them to the museum. These creations were made of wood, paper, recycled objects (including a motor from a sewing machine) and even paper clips.

Those mini creations reminded me that craftsmanship isn’t dead, it’s just hidden in the passions of the few people who commit to the time, passion and precision required to create magnificent pieces of art. Sometimes you have to go hunt things out, to find the astounding possibilities in things made by hand.

Sushi crafted out of floral materials for the annual Christmas decoration contest at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens.

These cupcakes look delicious. Too bad they are made out of flowers and other natural materials at the Botanical Gardens.

While I may yearn for the times when people seemed to take more pride in their work, and progress wasn’t measured by how much we could cram into one day. I recognize that there are, indeed, people who live their lives with the idea of making this world a more beautiful place–through arts, crafts, music, and words.

I plan to be one of them.

A peaceful mantle at the botanic garden which inspires me to create places of peace in my own home.

 

Occupy Thanksgiving: The Five Senses of Thanks

Warning, today’s post is a somewhat rambling journey into nostalgia brought on by the five senses.

The delicious aroma of my Mom’s recipe for stuffing permeated the house last night, making me want to dive into its comforting flavor-filled memory. I admit that I conducted a taste test to be sure it was perfect, which it was.

 

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite non-religious holiday. I used to love rushing down to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade back when the parade itself seemed longer than the commercials (now, sadly, the opposite is true). I am determined to make it to New York one of these years to see the parade live and without commercial interruptions.

For some strange reason (perhaps because I have been spending the week trying to OCCUPY Thanksgiving) the build up to Thanksgiving this week has been filled with moments of nostalgia and flashes of memory brought on by the power of my senses and some strange moments of serendipity.

 Today the house will fill with other scintillating smells,  as well as the delicious flavors that lead to overindulgence and (hopefully) create fabulous memories for my daughter, as  we have a family Thanksgiving.

While our family Thanksgivings have become more about a decadent meal than anything else for the past few years, I am still thankful for the memories of Thanksgivings past–memories that are carried in the scents and flavors of our traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Part of the joy of Thanksgiving was the rush home the day before after a half-day of school. The cool but crisp autumn air making me walk more quickly to get inside the warmth of the place called home. Yesterday, Sarah rushed in with excitement and energy, partially incited by the thrill of a homework assignment (believe it or not) where she is asked to interview a family member about his/her life as a third grader and Thanksgivings past. It should be fun hearing the stories, and I might encourage her to interview everyone not just one person.

Yesterday evening we decided to head to the movies to watch The Muppets which added to my feelings of nostalgia with the songs, sounds, and beloved characters of my youth. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the movie (once I got over the slight disappointment of character voices that weren’t quite right. Frank Oz was not part of this movie, and Fozzy Bear suffered for his lack). I found myself singing along to songs old and new, with a flashback to a favorite childhood performance of mine as I joined the muppets in a moving rendition of “Rainbow Connection.”

Yesterday, as I wrote my post in honor of Anne McCaffrey, I had an instant memory of a story I wrote for my class in sixth grade. Actually, it was a collection of stories and poems that I wrote and copied precisely into a hard covered dark green book with a gold pattern on the front and a red ribbon bookmark attached. Each story or poem has illustrations, also made by me.  I have that book somewhere and had hoped to copy the pages of the dragon story inspired by my reading of McCaffrey into my post, but we cannot find the book as it is lost in some of the boxes yet to find a place.  It is amazing how I can still picture the writing and the smell of that book and even the feel of the smooth pages in that book. I even remember the feeling in my hand as I cautiously drew light pencil lines on the blank pages, followed by penciled in letters, followed by tracing each letter in black marker before adding the illustrations.

The creation of my first book.

In a bizarre twist of nostalgic fate, just last night, Mrs. Jorgenson, the fabulous teacher who assigned the project to me accepted a friend request on Facebook that I had sent long ago. Coincidence or a reminder that we should be thankful for all of our past experiences, and all of the amazing teachers who have guided our hands along the way?

Finally, in the mail yesterday I received a book sent to me by someone who I have known since grade school at least, if not earlier. Milton has been following my blog (thanks for that)  and staying in touch via Facebook and he wrote me last week saying:

“I came across a book of quotes I thought you might like today and wanted to send it along. It’s called “The Quotable Woman”. My Sister in Law was giving it away and I thought you might get some use from it.”

As soon as I got it I started reading,  and of course my eyes were filled with wisdom and words from women of all types. Some you’ve heard before, some you haven’t, but all of them lend food for my thoughts about the power of women’s voices. So thank you, Milton, for this special little gift.   I have a feeling these quotes will be appearing in my posts for a while, starting withe these two found in the chapter called “Time and Change.”

“Memory is more indelible than ink. ” Anita Loos

“Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment.” Pearl Bailey

I leave you today wishing you all a wonderful day, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. Take today and enjoy every moment with all of your senses.

I DIDN’T Hear it On the Bus

Okay, I admit it,  I stole from another blogger. The title is a take of the fabulous series over at Young American Wisdom called “I Heard it on the Bus” .

I braved the bus today, chaperoning four third grade classes on a field trip to the Pequot Museum about 1 1/2 hours away. The museum was fascinating, including a village set with figures to learn all about Native American life. I was only allowed to take pictures in the Gathering Place, but here are a few:

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I did hear a few interesting tidbits, like the boy who told me that his great-great-great-great grandfather is still alive and kicking at something like 16o + years old, or the girl who told me that her great-great grandfather was on the Mayflower. (I think they need to review the concept of “great ancestors”).

But, I couldn’t help reflecting on what I didn’t hear. Now, I’m not claiming all the bus rides of my youth were pleasure experiences, but I remember one thing I loved. Whenever we were on the bus for any length of time we sang. The whole bus. We sang childish songs. We sang favorite songs. We sang “Three cheers for the bus driver” (especially on field trips).

This bus had no music.

Well, there was the girl sitting behind me who hummed Christmas Carols through vibrating lips.  And there was one brief chorus of Adele’s “Someone Like You” toward the end of the trip when the bus driver turned on the radio. (So appropriate for third graders who face heartbreak on a daily basis). No songs with silly and sometimes naughty lyrics. Nobody leading a chorus of some call and response ditty.

The other thing I didn’t hear was a group thank you for the bus driver. One of the teachers reminded the students to thank him on the way out, but there was no mass calling out. For that matter, I didn’t hear any teacher try to encourage the bus to be a community and represent the school with pride.

Maybe my memories of bus rides past are merely figments of my imagination, but I really miss hearing the music of young voices enjoying life together on the bus.

Does anyone else have good memories of bus rides past?

Ice Cream Tastes Better . . .

I’m feeling a little nostalgic and lone today. I haven’t given my daughter the Memorial Day she deserves as a child. Maybe next year. But, thanks to her, and the little tinkle of music coming down the street, I got to eat a strawberry shortcake and find some words to write (words that have avoided me all day):

 Ice cream tastes better
when it comes off an ice cream truck.

Fried Dough tastes better at a county fair.

Marshmallows taste better after a barbecue.

Ice cold lemonade tastes better after playing in the sun all day.

Everything tastes better in the memories of childhood.

Mother Daughter Swap

Like millions of Americans, I called my Mother yesterday.

Having tea a few years ago.

“I just called to say Happy Mother’s Day.”

“Thank you. And you too.”

I always find Mother’s Day awkward. Partially because, despite the fact that I am a Mom, I think my mother still sees me as the daughter who needed her all the time. Or the daughter that she wanted to need her all the time.

I’m no longer the daughter my mother knew.

I don’t often write about my family for a number of reasons.  Guilt. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. They all filter my relationship with my family.

Please understand that I am not blaming them, I blame myself. For a long  time I tried to perceive my family differently and to keep my connection with them in the ideal family sense. But I failed.

We all failed.

Yesterday Mom sounded pretty good. She had a positive lilt to her voice which she doesn’t always have. Of course, she was disappointed that my older sister decided to celebrate a friend’s birthday instead of Mother’s Day. But that’s not surprising to anyone, really. My sister’s role in the family is one of the reasons I don’t write very much about the family. It hurts too much. (And don’t worry, she very rarely reads this blog I’m sure. My brother does–you know him from The Odd Ramblings . . ., but I’m sure he understands what I mean.)

Then the conversation took a surprising turn.

“I think I’m retiring in July,” she tells me. “But now everyone’s telling me I shouldn’t retire. First everyone told me I should, now everyone’s telling me I shouldn’t.”

“Who is telling you not to retire?”

“Auntie Sis and one of your Dad’s home care people.” (My Dad has Alzheimer’s and I feel awful that I cannot spend more time with him or help. Another reason I don’t write about them often.)

I hesitated before I responded. I have been encouraging her to retire for a while now, because she complains about being tired all the time and about how she cannot get anything done. But, I know my mother. She’s not the most social being. She is no longer likely to pursue a project or a hobby simply because it interests her. She always has an excuse as to why she cannot do something.

So while a part of me thinks she should retire, another part knows that retirement might lead to fading away.

So this is what I said:

“Mom, I understand what they are saying. If you retire and do nothing, simply fade away, then that’s not a good choice. I know you, and that could happen. But you are the only one who can make the choice. If you can promise yourself to DO SOMETHING when you retire, then you should retire. But I can’t make you do anything, and you have to choose.”

“I know. That’s what I’m afraid of. I have a lot of thinking to do.”

Just like that our relationship changed. For a brief moment, she heard and accepted what I have to say.

It hurts to be so far away from my family, because I cannot help them deal with the changes that come from age and life. But, it also hurts to be near them because I cannot stop the changes anyway.

Each of us have chosen paths in our lives. Now all we can do is live them to the best of our abilities.

I leave you with a video my brother made. Watch closely and you will understand why. His original post of the video is called “Time Passes (a visual poem)“.

I is for “Incredible, Edible” Ice Cream

Chocolate ice cream

Image via Wikipedia

As the days get hotter I only want to eat cool foods. Salads, fresh fruit, and of course, ICE CREAM!

I don’t always want ice cream, but when I do I often think this is the perfect food. Yes, I know it has lots of fat and calories and sugar, but, if you get the right kind of ice cream it fulfills all sorts of nutritional needs, besides the fact that it sooths the soul. 😉 After all, most women don’t get enough calcium in their diet. What yummier way than to eat a little ice cream? But ice cream provides more than just calcium alone!

For example, yesterday after our quest for Dairy Queen failed (another count against this town) we ended up at Braun’s for ice cream and I ordered a small cup of German Chocolate. Now, in my naiveté I thought that would simply be a rich chocolate ice cream, but of course it was actually German Chocolate Cake ice cream. So it included: pecans (protein and fiber) and coconut (protein, vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium) So, according to Calorie Count at About.com, my little journey into a decadent treat added this to my day (Note that I am actually writing this immediately after eating the treat, so these numbers will change later on):

  • 300 calories (okay, that’s not great, but I still have over 400 calories to eat today)
  • 36 carbs (but my carbs are still too low for the day)
  • 5 grams of protein. I still need more.
  • 16 grams of fat . . . um , I’ll just deny that. And I am still in the good range for the day.
  • 9 grams of saturated fat. Harrumph. 😛
  • 45 mg of cholesterol. Not great but not bad. And I just started a medication to beat that silly cholesterol out of my system. Do you think this will set me back?
  • 150 mg of salt. Not great, not bad. Why does there have to be salt in everything?
  • 1 g. of fiber. Woo hoo!
  • 35 g. of sugar. So . . . it is a treat!
  • 400 IU of Vitamin A. See, it’s got vitamins.
  • 1.2 mg of Vitamin C. You can’t get enough of that.
  • 150 mg. of Calcium. I’m going to get enough calcium today! Yay me!
  • 1.1 mg. of Iron. That’s pretty awesome

Now I just need to figure out how to get some potassium in there and it will be almost the perfect meal. Aha! Easy solution for that:

And of course, I chose an ice cream that includes the most important food group. Okay, it’s not listed on the nutrition charts, but most women will agree with me that the most important food group is . . .

CHOCOLATE!!!

Now, I would like to point out that I’ve lost 15 lbs recently and am on the road to many more. I’m taking care of my health and trying to get more exercise on a regular basis. Did you know that sitting and typing/ writing for about an hour burns approximately 143 calories?

But sometimes you still have to eat ice cream.

Who wants to join me in a banana split?

Ice Cream and Nostalgia

Addition on Monday morning . . .

Isn't that a great porch?

After I wrote the draft of this post, I headed to the William Inge Family home for a rehearsal of a scene that will be held there this week. I was a little early, so I sat on the fabulous front porch (my favorite part of the old house) and enjoyed the sunshine at the end of the day. The smell of lilacs wafted over to me from the tree nearby. Bright butterflies made visits, drawn by the sweet smell. In the distance, I though I heard a tinkle of music that sounded like someone’s cell phone playing a lively, old-fashioned tune. When one of my actors arrived, a local girl, I heard it even more clearly.

“What is that?” I asked.

“The ice cream truck.”

I sat back and smiled.

E at Eighteen

Eighteen lives an exciting life.
Every dream has potential
Every idea is new.

Eighteen plus Eighteen
Every day is about another
Every dream is for another
Every idea helps her grow.

Eighteen plus Eighteen plus Eighteen
enters the unknown.

 

Stumbling into Romance

My first week in Hawaii before I started Graduate School was full of conflicting emotions.  I had never been to the island before, and was experiencing the beauty, color, smell and sunshine for the first time. I had just left my home of three years, Okayama, Japan so my heart was filled with the sadness of departure and letting go. I held the fears of a new adventure, as well as the stresses of starting over somewhere completely new. I needed to find an apartment and some kind of job to help support me through a three-year graduate program. There was also an error in my acceptance packet, so I had to convince someone to let me into the three-year MFA instead of the two-year MA–needless to say my emotions were all over the place.

At the first meeting of the new graduate students, I found myself thinking, “I don’t belong here. I can’t do this.” Why? Because this handsome Asian man walked into the meeting sporting a portfolio filled with images and I had nothing. I looked around me as the people in the room shared their various experiences and felt like I had even less than nothing.

But this isn’t about that.

The handsome Asian man walking into the room would represent a significant change in my life. I remember thinking, “He’s cute” and then immediately dismissing him from the realm of possibility. In my mind, if I thought he was cute, I had no chance with him.

Despite my 24 years I had very little experience with men. There was the Japanese man who stole my heart, but it would never lead anywhere, as I have written about elsewhere. There was also that short fling with an American man (Oh, Michael. Six-foot-something. Dark hair, blue eyes. Sigh!). But that was it. That was the extent of my dating history. I had a couple of pathetic dates in high school, and one or two in college, but I don’t know that those counted.

The story of me and men was a short one. And, I was there for grad school, not romance. (If I said that to myself often enough I wouldn’t get lonely or feel bad about my inability to connect with men).

I next met Mr. handsome Asian after I got hired by the Theater Manager to work in House Management (which would eventually include a tuition waiver–woo hoo!). I was talking to the PR Director, another grad student named R Kevin who also happened to go to undergrad with my brother, in a tiny office that used to be a storage closet. In walked Nathan, R’s best friend. We chatted for a little while, and then the guys asked me if I wanted to go play video games with them.

“Um, no thanks,” video games were definitely not on my radar, “I am still moving into my apartment.”

And that was the beginning. Throughout the semester I alternated between having a crush on R Kevin and having a crush on Nathan–but it didn’t really matter as I also began to accept my destiny as a singleton.

Of course, I then learned that both guys had just been broken up with before I got there–by women who they both loved and who would also become friends of mine. So, not thinking romantically was easy–I didn’t want to be the rebound relationship.

I focused on studying, working, trying to get the occasional Hawaii experience, and trying not to succumb to the craziness of my roommates, and eventually finding a new living situation (another crazy story).  I really did not think much about dating (although my crush on Nathan was getting stronger). Eventually, however, it felt like Nathan was paying extra attention to me. I won’t call it flirting, but it seemed like he talked to me an awful lot.

But nothing happened, and I was too shy to do anything about it myself, so friends we remained. Nathan says that he actually asked me out several times (but usually to be part of a group) and I kept saying no because I was busy. Naive. Busy. Who knows.

Eventually, at the end of the semester, we were all at a party at R Kevin’s house. Nathan kept coming over to talk with me and I was very aware of that. We talked about how few people were going to be around during the break. I  had a Christmas break temp job at a television station starting the next morning, so I didn’t stay long. Before I left, Nathan said, “Maybe we can go to the movies sometime over break.” I said sure because it was nice to have a friend to hang out with.

He didn’t call.

Then, about a week later he called said he was sorry, he had been sick all of break. I said, “No problem” as I still thought it was just friends. We made a plan to go to the movies, and the movie choice added to my assumption that this was just two friends going out.

The movie, Dumb and Dumber.

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Granted, I was a little thrown when Nathan picked me up and handed over this jean jacket of his that I really liked. “I don’t wear this anymore,” he said, “so I thought you might want it.”

“Okay,” I said, my heart fluttered a little but I still thought that all fell within the realms of friendship.

During the movie I felt like I was in Jr. High. Is this a date or isn’t it? Does he like me? What’s going on? I still had no indication until near the end of the movie, when he took my hand.

The rest, shall we say, is history.

Remember When . . .

Remember when Saturday morning meant watching cartoons: rabbits outsmarting hunters, or a French skunk falling in love; little blue creatures frolicking as they avoided the big bad wizard; hip rocker chicks wearing ears and tails singing and solving crimes in exotic environments, even outer space? (I know, I’m dating myself).

Those mornings were special because they were unique. Now that unique Saturday morning joy is elusive because of easy access to cartoons on a daily basis. Cartoons, may I add, that may have more technical capabilities but have lost a lot of the charm. That’s not just the jaded adult in me speaking. My daughter stumbled upon Bugs Bunny cartoons through Netflix and was mesmerized; same with old pink panthers (which I now recognize should only be watched in small doses as the repetition of content and music is like the drip, drip, drip of a water faucet overnight).

Remember when snowy winter days could be spent reading book after book in bed without any feeling of guilt? I would read, and read, and read, then fall asleep for a bit until I woke to read some more. I admit to still doing that occasionally, but the pure joy of getting lost in a world created by someone’s words is marred by the deep (very deep) inner voice nagging: “You should be . . . You should be . . .You should be . . .!” Eventually I have to stop reading and follow the voice.

Remember when you ate oblivious to the sugar content or the fat calories or the potential rolls that would develop on thighs and hips? Of course, perhaps my eating obliviously then has led to the need to eat consciously now, but sweetness remains in  my memory for those days of decadent indulgence.

Remember when you would stay outside in the snow for hours: building forts with intricate tunnel systems (the Blizzard of 78 was AMAZING);  ice skating on the pond at the end of the street (which has since been replaced by a school); staying out until your nose and cheeks glowed bright red in frozen joy?  My cheeks, fingers and toes would always tingle when I came inside to drink a steaming cup of hot chocolate made with milk and syrup; a special decadent treat. Now it is too easy to have hot chocolate, so it has lost some of that “special” feeling.

I wonder, when Sarah is my age, what she would write about with fondness and nostalgia. Will she remember cuddling with me on the futon that we decided to leave down unless we need it to be a couch? Will she remember Nathan’s French toast that he would make upon request? Will she remember watching movies as a family, or curling up together reading books?  Will she remember building a snowman in Massachusetts, complete with a carrot for a nose?

Or will she remember only computers and technology and the other elements of today’s society that add ease but take away some of the charm?

Will she remember reading with Papa in the house in Massachusetts? I only have vague memories of sitting in my Grandfather’s lap on the red leather chair, mesmerized by his bald head.

Watching my child grow brings back memories of my own childhood, good and bad. Sometimes, on a Saturday morning I wish I could go back to simpler times.

How about you? What do you remember fondly and wish you could bring back into your world?

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