Category Archives: Gatherings

Lest we ForgeT

My cousin who recently died loved butterflies. As her casket was lowered into the ground, those in attendance set free butterflies they had been given, housed in paper packages. Her sister ordered them half frozen, packaged them, thawed them, and then distributed them to be released at the appointed time. They were Painted Lady butterflies. I will never see a butterfly and not think about my cousin.

As we drove home on Friday, we passed these long rows of trees, each about half a mile long and about 100 feet apart, planted many years ago about 15 miles from our town. They were planted to combat erosion in the 1930’s. When my dad lived with us just before he died, he said those trees always reminded him of Franklin Roosevelt. Now, when I see them, I think of my dad and Franklin Roosevelt. How interesting that one thing can remind us of other, non-related things.

What reminds you of people or things? What do you want people to see that reminds them of you?

Keeping Connections

I am really glad that we were able to get to my cousin’s funeral. She was the daughter of my mom’s youngest brother, Harvey. I was the only (and oldest) cousin there. Two cousins from my Aunt Leona’s family live in Pipestone but didn’t attend, and two other cousins from my Uncle Ronald were too far away to attend. We brought Norma, Uncle Ronald’s widow, to the funeral. She was so happy to get out of Watertown, SD, and get to see nieces and nephews she hadn’t seen for a long time.

We all caught up with eachother’s and our children’s lives at the funeral lunch. Of the four remaining children of my Uncle Harvey, all but one lives within 30 miles of Pipestone. That cousin, Alan, lives in Grand Island, NE. He plans to move closer to the Pipestone/Luverne area near to the others after he retires. Alan said he thought it really important to be closer to his siblings. He and the others were delighted to hear our plans to move to Luverne when I retire. Connections are important.

The Methodist pastor who conducted the funeral was one of my high-school classmates. It was good to catch up with her, too. Despite the sad occasion, it felt so good to be with people who knew me, with whom I had a history, and who appreciate the connection we have.

Who are your important connections? What do you do to keep those connections going?

Making Friends with…

I believe that, as I write this on Friday June 11, we are in our 7th consecutive day in the 90s. I am not a happy camper. I wilt any time the thermometer rises above 80, especially if humidity accompanies the heat. Husband usually loves heat, to a point, and tolerates it much better than I, so we have what I call the A/C wars, just like my folks had. [Mom would just hole up in the air conditioned rooms, and Dad would hang out in his room (nice large one with its own sitting area and TV) with the window open – he had a nice magnolia tree right outside the window.] I can do climate control with shades in windows in the a.m., but by mid-afternoon I need A/C.I just looked ahead via Weather.com:  between now and June 24 in SE Minnesota, there is one (1) day when the high is predicted to be below 85˚ F.  And we are in a bit of a drought – greatest chance of rain predicted in that time frame here is 56% chance today, and there’s not yet a cloud in the sky.

So an interesting thing happened after I got up this morning – I’d had a really nice and complicated dream in the wee hours, and wakened with a pretty strong shift in attitude:  I am going to Make Friends with the heat. It could be that our entire summer will be like this, and I do not wish to be miserable all summer. Instead of hating and grousing about it, I will embrace it, and do what I can to enjoy it. This will mean shifting my schedule, my way of doing things, where I do things, and perhaps what things I do. And I may have to buy awnings or screens to create more shade for the patio out back (and my out-the-back-door summer kitchen – worth perhaps another blog post).

There is shade on our back patio till about 10:30, and there was a little breeze this morning. I invited a nearby friend over for ice water, if she could come by 8:30. (She’s an early riser.) After that I placed a lawn chair in the driveway under the beloved Hackberry Tree, and till about noon I perused my recipe books for chilled soup recipes. I have fans on right now, and am about to go to the NICE COOL BASEMENT to clean it up and find some sewing projects, perhaps clear a place that we could play Mexican Train. Once the A/C has cooled things off upstairs, I can watch movie clips for a zoom class I’m taking on Musical Theater…

In other words, I’m trying.

How are you coping with this heat wave so far?

Is there anyone or anything you might “make friends” with that could make your life easier?

Party Time

Last week was full of more social gatherings for us than we have had in more than a year. At an outdoor ceremony at a city park, Husband and other officers for the local food pantry accepted a cheque from the city for a new security system. Husband got to rub elbows with city officials, Rotarians, former university presidents, and other local worthies. He then did some church visiting to a shut-in couple we haven’t seen for months. It culminated in a wonderful party on Saturday night in Mandan at a city park about 10 miles outside of town at a man-made reservoir.

Dear friends of ours, the ones who gave us the Arikara bean seeds, celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. They are a couple older than we are, in their early 70’s. He is Native American. She is white. They are both addiction counselors. They renewed their wedding vows with the help of family, friends, former colleagues, and an Indian Elvis Impersonator from Oklahoma. The party was held in a large, open air picnic shelter.

There was plenty of food provided by the couple and kept hot in huge electric roasters. Guests brought food, too. It was a real pot luck feast. There were about 50 people in attendance. The trick was keeping one’s self hydrated and the perishables cool, since the temperature, at 5:00 PM, was 103. I feared for Elvis in his white jump suit. He sang and danced and gyrated despite the heat.

Elvis was fascinating. He is a member of the Choctaw nation and also is an actor and traditional dancer. Our friend found him by searching YouTube videos under the name NDN Elvis. He sang to a prerecorded accompaniment so he didn’t need a live back up band. He also conducted the renewal ceremony. A former tribal councilman read selections from the Bible. There were flower bouquets, sage bundles, and sweet grass braids. Family had made a photo display of the couple’s years together.

The only thing that didn’t work out was the Indian flute player, Keith Bear. He is a rather well known Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation musician. You can find him on You Tube, too. He had to travel unexpectedly to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help with the passing of a notable spiritual leader who was present at Wounded Knee. There always seems to be at least one thing that doesn’t go as planned at a big party.

Tell some wedding or anniversary party stories. What worked? What didn’t? What would you want an Elvis Impersonator to sing at your party?

Mayhem at Chuck E. Cheese

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Several years ago Dale Connelly rejected a story I offered him about a school outing to a Chuck E. Cheese mall store. Perhaps recent tweaks to that story will make it usable now.

When Molly’s fourth grade class asked me to volunteer as a chaperon for this field trip, I agreed. As a freelance journalist working from my home, I had extra time. And, heck, I enjoy ice cream as much as any kid. This outing could be interesting.

I didn’t expect to like the venue, and did not. Chuck E. Cheese is a chain of family event centers catering to kids. Loud, garish and built to be “fun,” these places are not subtle. The one my daughter’s class visited in Rosedale featured an animatronic band of figures that pretended to play instruments. Chuck E. Cheese was an oversized rat blowing a flute, backed by a gorilla on drums and a bear flailing at a banjo. The music, while dreadful, promoted a frenetic atmosphere where kids could be themselves with no limits. The business area itself was divided between a stage, some dining tables and a large room in which kids could play arcade games like the then-popular Ms. Pac-Man.

I began noticing one kid in particular, a red haired boy who dominated the room. He was over a head taller than the others and was easily the loudest and most aggressive kid in the room. Jealousy triggered him. He didn’t enjoy whatever game he dominated but was sparked by envy when he saw another kid having fun with a different machine. I tried to tune him out, and yet this kid was was getting on my nerves.

Then it was time to go back home. We queued up to get back on the bus that would return us to school. The red haired bully was pushing to be first on the bus, but then spotted a little girl doing a last bit of play with Ms. Pac-Man. That tripped his trigger. He screamed and rushed the machine. By coincidence, his path to that machine would take him right by me.

I am not decisive, athletic or aggressive, and yet in that split second I became all three. As the bully swept past me, I shot my left ankle out to hook his left ankle. With a full head of speed already in hand, the bully launched into the air with arms outstretched in the famous flying Superman pose. He flew and flew. Then, lacking a functional cape, he crashed on the waxy tile floor and slid on for some more distance, arms still outstretched.

His face contorted with rage, the kid pointed at me and roared, “He TRIPPED me!” Of course, I was by then bent at the waist, deep in fatherly conversation with my daughter. Only two people in the room knew what had just happened, and only one of them had credibility.

The return trip to school would have presented few problems for the bully. He lived in chaos and strife, so he probably smoldered with a sense of injustice that quickly burned out. That was his life.

Things were more complicated for the man who had just assaulted a kid he didn’t know. That man had never thrown a punch in anger and had, in fact, never raised his voice in a dispute. A sweet, people-pleasing man, he was suddenly haunted by visions of The Lord of the Flies. Who in hell was that man who suddenly tripped a kid he had just met? Would he ever suddenly come again?

Have you ever been shocked by the sudden appearance of emotions you didn’t know you held? Have you ever thought about what it would take to make you take a public stand? Have you ever suspected that the veneer of civilization that protects us most of the time is actually quite thin? How have you dealt with bullies?

Just Here for the Food?

I’ve heard a lot of people say “I don’t go to the fair for the food.”   I’ve said it myself and I’ve always wondered if people believed me, if I believed myself.  Yesterday I found out.

When the State Fair announced they would have a mini-fair open for Memorial Day weekend, I was online in a flash.  You had to enter a lottery to be able to get a time slot during which you could buy tickets.  Luckily I did OK and we got out first choice.  There were two time periods each day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then 4-9 p.m.  You could arrive any time during your time slot but you had to leave at the end. 

It was more crowded than I had anticipated although nothing compared to a regular fair day in August.  There were folks with masks but mostly not; it was easy enough to do social distancing if you needed to, except in the cookie line.  The open part of the fair was about four square blocks and included the giant slide, the DNR stage, the grandstand (although just a seating area and a bingo area).  A handful of vendors, a few musical groups and food.  LOTS and LOTS of food. 

If I had been on my own, I would have stopped and listened to music as I walked around but YA’s musical sensibilities don’t line up with mine.  So we walked around for a couple of hours, bought a couple of t-shirts.  We got some Greek food and some cheese curds.  YA got some toffee peanuts.  We sat for a bit and decided that we’d had probably enjoyed it as much as we were going to – we headed home.

There were a lot of people who were clearly going to hang out the whole of their time slot and the lines in a few place were unbelievable (Pronto Pup had two lines going in opposite directions, at least a block long each way).  But even sharing, neither YA nor I can simply plow our way through massive amounts of food.

So I guess it IS true for me.  I don’t go to the fair for the food.

You doing anything out of the ordinary for Memorial Day?

Play Date for VS

When I was little we didn’t have “play dates”.  Nothing was ever organized; at some point most days my mother just said “go play outside”.  It seems like every mother and father said the same thing to their kids because there always seems to be kids out and about.  We banded together to play all sorts of games and wander all over.

These days if you want to have fun with the kids in your neighborhood, you have to set up a play date.  Last weekend we had a few folks over to celebrate YA’s graduation from her MBA program.  She wanted the festivities but was extremely opinionated about what she would allow.  For example, no theme plates/napkins/cups, etc.  Luckily I had already ordered the graduation cupcake liners and decorative picks.  She also didn’t want a whole lot of décor but did agree that I could put a chalk message on the sidewalk.

Nobody love using chalk more than the little girls who live next door so I asked their mother if they could come over on Saturday morning to help decorate.  She said “what time” and when I said that around 10 would be good, she put it in her phone.  I had a playdate!

We ended up with parents helping and another little girl from up the street came down to join us as well.  It was my first “gathering” in over a year and even though it was just chalk on the sidewalk, I had a fabulous time.  I’m thinking I should set up more playdates now!

What would you like included in your next play date?

Gardens Galore!

(Sorry picture is fuzzy – I don’t have the original….)

In the past ten days our yard has gone from the scourge of the neighborhood to the envy of everyone.  I don’t chop too much down in the fall on the theory that the old stalks and leaves hold onto water and protect the spring buds.  (I don’t know if this is actually true, but I cling to it… especially since I have trouble getting motivated for autumn gardening.)  YA and I have gotten everything cleaned up, spread about a ton of mulch (well, it feels that way, anyway) and turned our eyesore into a lovely garden.  The fact that the daffodils and tulips are in bloom on the boulevard doesn’t hurt!

As we’ve been working, I been looking at some of the plants that I’ve been lucky to receive from baboons on the trail.  Lovely hostas in the backyard from PJ, raspberry canes from Linda, a massive hosta display on the front boulevard from our tim and, of course, my lovely Prairie Smoke from LJB.  It’s made me think that although our baboon troop was initially brought together by music, we’ve also bonded over gardening.  Helping out PJ with her garden after the accident, the great chainsaw gathering at Steve’s, filling in Anna’s spot with various plants, Ben bringing us bales and poo, Jim providing seeds and loads of gardening talk over the years. 

As always, I’m grateful for all the fabulous friendship over music, books and gardening!

Any gardening projects in store for you? 

Family Favorites

We had a lovely visit on Monday from my cousin, Wes. He lives in Columbus, OH, and is a retired librarian at Ohio State. He was a librarian at Macalester for several years, and then moved to to the big time in Ohio. ( I always think of him when Wesew comments on the blog).

Wes was on a return trip from Seattle and stopped by before heading to Minnesota to see other family there. We had a great time reminiscing and telling stories. We share similar political and social beliefs. I hadn’t seen him for six years. Growing up as an only child, my cousins were like my brothers. I spent a lot of time with them. I had very few female cousins and I wasn’t very close to them. I think perhaps that is why I have always been more comfortable around men than I am around women.

We have had very few visits from any family except my parents since we moved here 33 years ago. This visit was a real treat. I wish that more of our immediate and extended family had the sense that a visit to other family is more important than the appeal of the area in which they live. I suppose that our family could just consider us real pills, and that is why they don’t visit, but I they seem to like it when we visit them, so I don’t think we are that putting off.

What family visits have you dreaded or enjoyed over the years? Who are your favorite cousins? Who are your favorite relatives? 

Birthday Bash

Our 5 year old gardening buddy has a birthday next week, and asked his parents for a Gunsmoke themed party. He likes dressing up like a cowboy, and I assume his parents let him watch Gunsmoke reruns. His parents agreed, and his dad found a bunch of wooden pallets he is transforming into a boardwalk. There is a large sign the says Long Branch Saloon. I can hardly wait to see if anyone dresses up like Miss Kitty.

Our daughter also has a birthday in a couple of weeks. She always has anxiety over birthdays, I think stemming from anticipation over childhood parties. We never went so far as to recreate a film set, but she had some nice parties. She stated she has a number of birthday events scheduled by friends in the next two weeks. She is celebrating personally by having a different kind of hot dog a day for her birthday week. We never knew she even liked hot dogs.

My childhood parties were pretty tame, but I will never forget my heartbreak on my 8th birthday when my parents told me that we were moving to a new house in a different part of town, meaning I wouldn’t be next door to my best friend anymore.

What are some of your more memorable birthday parties? What events or celebrations do you dread? What would you wear to a Gunsmoke themed party? Plan your next birthday bash.