Roots

I need to apologize to Osyth. A few weeks ago in her blog, Half-Baked in Paradise, she wrote about moving. Something about her words broke my heart. Maybe it was this:

My heart felt the leaden weight of sorrow because my safe-place, my home, my warm hug, my protective cloak, call it what you will has gone.

When she posted again, I didn’t even go read it. I couldn’t — I was still grieving over her move. Then she posted again, and I read it. In fact, she started re-blogging a series about her home, and the renovations there, and I binged. She’s posting day by day. Like a glutton, I looked the whole series up and read it, laughing — actually revelling with her — at the great adventure she has been on for some time. (Start here: Coup de Coeur: Part One)

Sorry, Osyth, for not waiting for you to repost them all. I’m just the kind of person who likes to read the end of the book before I read the middle.

Home is something so dear to me. One of my many started-and-discarded blogs had the tagline, “I love where I live.”  And I do. I love upstate New York.  I love Cooperstown. I love the four seasons, the Susquehanna River, Otsego Lake, the trees, the village streets, the country roads, the people, the cows, even the tourists. This is my home — and the thought of living elsewhere is almost unthinkable.

My father keeps asking me what brought me to Cooperstown.

“What do you mean?” I ask him.

“What made you come here?” he’ll say, as if that clarifies anything.

“Are you asking about why I first moved to Cooperstown?”

“Yes,” he replies.

“We moved here as a family in 1967,” I say. “You took a job at Bassett Hospital as the head of their General Services department.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he replies, every time, remembering, or acknowledging the plausibility of this story.

“I was a child,” I remind him, “your child. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Where did Bud come from?” my father asks, trying to piece together my family.

We’ve gone through this many times now. I know the questions that are coming, but it’s sad because he has lost a large chunk of my life.

“I took a year off from college and met Bud while I was working at Bassett,” I say.

He nods, but I’m not sure he remembers anything about this.

Long pauses punctuate our conversation.

“Where did you come from?” This question often comes next. It’s another one that needs clarification. I’m sure he’s not asking about the birds and the bees, so I name the army base where I was born.

“How long did you live there?”

My mom and the children she moved with all by herself

“Six weeks,” I tell him. “When I was a baby, Mom loaded me, Stewart, Donabeth, and Peter into a station wagon to join you in Fort Riley.”

Yes, I was 6 weeks old. My oldest brother was 5 years old, my sister not quite 4, and my middle brother only 21 months old. Whenever I asked my mother about my birth and first year of life, all she would say to me was, “That was a hard time.” I’ll bet it was. The legend of a super mom.

“I don’t remember any of that,” my father says, and, of course, he wouldn’t because he was busy working at his fledgling career as an army doctor.

Another long pause. I begin to focus on whatever it was I had been doing before this conversation began.

“So what made you come here?” my father will ask, and we’ll start the whole thing again.

“You did, Dad,” I tell him. “You did.”

The Cookie Rule

One of my brothers attended Cornell  — ever heard of it? While he was there, my uncle visited to adjudicate at the law school’s moot court competition. My brother snuck up to the bench where my uncle would be hearing the arguments and left a little note at his spot on the dais —

The following case may be relevant to today’s proceedings —

P— vs State of New Jersey (1937) in which the “cookie rule” was established.

The Cookie Rule clearly states that cookies must be consumed in the following proportion:  two plain cookies for every filled one.

I remember my uncle telling my father the story and roaring with laughter. My grandfather, my father, my uncle — they all love to laugh.

And I love to hear it.

But the cookie rule was new to me at that point. My mother never instituted it, although my father had grown up with it. His mother had come up with a way to control cookie consumption — two plain cookies for every filled.

All this flashed through my mind yesterday when I brought my father his “sweet” to eat after lunch.

My father definitely has a sweet tooth, and every meal (except breakfast) is followed by something sweet. After lunch, it’s usually a cookie, and after dinner, it’s usually ice cream.

I had picked up a package of Oreos at the store because they were on sale. I know, I know — Oreos are basically death between two wafers — but he likes them so I buy them occasionally.

Okay, I confess — I like them, too.

So, I brought this brand-new package of Oreos to him and said, “Dad, would you like a cookie?”

His eyes lit up. “I think I would,” he said.

I peeled back the flap to reveal the treasure, and he reached in to take one.

“Could I have two?” he asked — and suddenly, I saw in front of me a little boy asking permission to break a rule. His eyes sparkled as he looked up at me hopefully.

“Yes, you can have two,” I said.

He smiled and pulled two cookies out of the package.

Douglas MacArthur said, “You are remembered for the rules you break.”

I’m sure my father will be remembered for much more than this, but I’ll treasure that look he had as he took two filled cookies.

 

The Wreck of the Eliza

 

An original Sea Shanty

Not the Eliza, but maybe similar

(1) Captain Hopkins had a schooner
Eliza was her name
Come hear the story of her wreck
“tis such a crying shame
She sailed out from Hyannis
In April 1899
Heavy seas when she departed
Though the morrow’s forecast fine

(2) Captain Hopkins had a worthy crew
Of 13 men with him
Many were related,
Brothers, cousins, kin —
Eliza had been prosperous
So the Captain laid aside
Money to soon build a house
For his sons and his bride

(3) Eliza made a quick run
Through Nantucket sound
The Great Round Shoal lightship
They sailed right around
The night was clear, but a relic
Of the Northwest gale that day
Made the seas a little choppy
Still it did not cause delay

(4) Course was set for Great Rip
Also called Nantucket Shoals
Captain Hopkins knew his way
All around these fishing holes
Two men were on watch
When they hit the Rose and Crown
A miscalculated shoal
That brought their lady down

(Chorus)
Hey, there, Cap’n Hopkins!
Climb aboard wi’ me!
But – No-ho, he shouted,
The dory won’t survive this sea

Hey, there, Cap’n Hopkins!
There’s room for all aboard!
But – No-ho, he shouted.
And the pleas were all ignored.

(5) A wave swept o’er Eliza
From her stem to stern
She was broken with one pound
The surf was all a-churn
While some men grabbed the rigging
The dory was prepared
To launch for this emergency
That their lives would be spared

(Chorus)

(6) A wave swept the dory
Right off the deck
Three men fought to right her
And keep her by the wreck
“Come on board,” they shouted
To the remaining crew
Cap’n, he refused to go
And the others followed suit.

(Chorus)

(7) The dory, she was stove in —
Two men rowed, the other bailed
And they stayed right near Eliza
To save the crew, but failed —
The onboard crew refused them
“That dory is too small
Dawn will be here soon
We’ll be seen and save-d all.”

(Chorus)

(8) The men in the dory
Stayed the whole night through
Listening, hoping, praying
To know what they should do
But when dawn’s rays illuminated
Here’s what met their eyes:
The schooner gone to pieces
And nobody survived.

(Chorus)

(9)They rowed that broken dory
Through the Rose and Crown
Bailing water constantly
Till they came in sight of town
And so these three were rescued:
Nickerson, Miller, Doane,
But oh, dear Captain Hopkins –
Why didn’t you come home?

(Chorus)

*****

Based on the true story of my great-grandfather, a fishing boat captain who died at age 37, going down with his schooner, the Eliza.

Zero

I began at the end, with my mother’s dementia. Now I’ll end at the beginning of my mother’s life.

Actually, the pre-beginning.

The zero before the one-two-three.

That space the game token rests on before the first roll of the dice.

The Beforeward.

Whatever it’s called.

My grandmother gave the family a great gift when she wrote her autobiography. Through that, I know the following:

My great-great grandfather was a chimney sweep.

I'm practically related to Dick van Dyke

I’m practically related to Dick van Dyke

My great-grandfather was a bushelling tailor who, “did not make suits, but refitted and repaired them.” He came from Denmark in 1892, found a tailoring job, and then sent for his family.

Family pictureMy great-grandmother came over steerage with four children. She couldn’t speak any English. My grandmother still remembered the name of the woman who taught her mother English. Lydia Buxton, may your descendants be blessed.

My grandmother and her brother were born in a tiny house in an alleyway in Beverly, Massachusetts.

My great-grandfather took in dry cleaning for extra money. My grandmother and her brother delivered clothes for him. One of her sisters worked for him every afternoon and sometimes all day Saturday. Still, they struggled to make ends meet. My grandmother wrote, “My father sometimes had to wait weeks for his money from wealthy people who would not take the time to write a check. My father would have to ask the coal dealer to wait until he received pay for his work.”

But they made sure the children went to church and to school. They had music in their lives. Piano. Violin. Choir.

My grandmother had wanted to become a teacher, but there was no money for “Normal School,” where high school graduates could be trained to become teachers. So she took a job as a switchboard operator for the Woodbury Shoe Co. and earned $6 a week, two of which went to her father for room and board.

She met my grandfather at church. A church group gave her a surprise 16th birthday party, and my grandfather and his twin brother argued over who would get to take her home. She couldn’t tell them apart at the time.

He had stopped school in the 11th grade to take a bank job.

They married and had four children. My mother was the youngest.

Aviary Photo_130749679699200104She was a little girl who loved to catch snakes and would stand up to bullies.

When she grew up, the bully she held off wasn’t named Normie, but was named Alzheimer’s.

Doing this A-to-Z Challenge in her honor has been fun.

Thanks, Mom, for everything.