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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Carol's Coat~~

Hoag Family reunion, 1971
L. to R., Abby, Carol and Deborah Waldron

My mother-in-law, Carol, was a strong New England woman, one who was born and died in her home state of Massachusetts. She was taller and broader than me, had a powerful presence, softened by short brown curls and a ready smile. Back in the early 1970's, in between a full time job and starting the first NOW chapter in Lexington, she bought a fine Woolrich(c) coat, teal colored twill with a tan-and-white wool lining.

A few years passed. Carol grew wider as folks tend to do in these United States, and the coat was handed to her youngest daughter, Abby, now married and a timber framer. That's her on the left. It probably never really fit Abby, except perhaps across the shoulders. Still, it was serviceable for a rough New Hampshire winter. The good twill broke the wind and the liner created an Indian blanket warmth. Like all coats of this period, it was unwieldy. After putting it on, you felt lumbering and bear-like. 

There was a hood, too, but by the time I inherited the coat, the string was gone. In deep cold or high wind, however, the big hood could still be pulled over a scarf for a second line of defense. You might look like the Abominable Snowman, but in my now senior world, so what?

The coat is a keeper. It's worn weekly all through winter. Like any article of clothing that has been in use for so long, it shows it's age. For one thing, there's a dab of yellow house paint on one pocket, now hopelessly sunk into the twill. That, and a little hole on that same pocket, might suggest a thrift store source when viewed in cold, unforgiving daylight.

At Christmas time, an old coat probably seems like a weird topic, but there's a part of me that, though descended from a long line of upstate New York farmers, is pure Yankee at heart. In the midst of so much consumption--and so much compulsion to consume, pounding on the psyche from every side--there's a part of me that's stubbornly resistant. I remember my much loved and frugal Grandfather, and the rhyme he recited to me long ago.

"Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make Do
Or do without."

In later years, I'd hear it again, now repeated among my husband's New England relatives.

There is another narrative though, beyond the warts-and-all-virtue, but a memory of the two other bodies who have sheltered inside this old coat. One is a sister-in-law who has become a sister, and my formidable mother-in-law, now departed to the other side.  

This wool and twill bears memories. It's not just "an old coat."

Carol, Springfield, MA HS Graduation, 1943

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Rosemary Tree

Well, here it is--the event no one was waiting for--a sprawling rosemary used as Christmas tree, Hanukkah Bush, or whatever. When autumn came, it seemed a shame to leave it outside to die. I can't just stick it in the garden and wait to see if it will winter over or not because after several years, I'm emotionally invested. We go back with one other for some years, this rosemary plant and I.

It would look nicer if I'd just keep it trimmed back into a sensible cone or something, but I'm from Yellow Springs, the land where the bushes and shrubberies and trees grow with perfect, radical self-expression.

Our weather where I now live might allow it to survive winter, but I haven't had a lot of luck with that strategy in this unforgiving clay soil, so I've been cosseting this one and bringing it in for the cold months. Now here it sits, taking up inordinate amounts of space on the round table between the printer, scanner and the two CPUs, so I decided to put it to seasonal use. 

I put on a few store bought decorations, but the little handmade ornaments have the most meaning. My Grandmother Liddle made a few of them for church bazaars--the little sewn hearts, nutcracker men, and clothespin soldiers. Friend Joy baked a couple, the pink pig lower left, made from cornstarch and then painted. She made a Christmas tree too, all trimmed with bows and ribbons. The cornhusk angels came from GMA L too, handmade at Ohio craft stores.  There are also a pair of long dangling "icicle" blown glass ornaments made long ago by Chris's Uncle John.

The rosemary is too supple to support much weight, so I couldn't use the bird for a topper. Set in the pot is a Navaho granny, holding grandbabies in her arms. I bought this ornament when I didn't get to hug my own grandkids enough because they lived too far away. The little clay granny makes  happy whenever I looked at her. Her presence always  helps me to send an imaginary hug to my dear grand-girls.

~~Juliet Waldron

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

God Speed, John Glenn

 The Right Stuff

It was on February 20, 1962 that John Glenn, a Marine pilot who'd flown 149 missions during World War Two and the Korean War, completed his historic three trips around Planet Earth--as "spam in a can."  It took a heck of a lot more nerve and balls out skill to survive those earlier military assignments, I'm sure, but it was for the orbital flight of the tiny Friendship 7 that he attained fame and a ticker tape parade. Such are the ways of popular culture, but he was the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space.

Spam in a Can

John Glenn went on to serve his country in the Senate for many terms, as a Democrat from Ohio 1974-1999. No "come here" politician, Ohio was his home state. He'd been born in Cambridge, Ohio in 1921 and attended Muskingham College, where he studied mathematics. When the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into World War II, he dropped out of college and enlisted, first in the army and then, after not being called up, as a Navy aviation cadet. He was an old style gentleman, married to his childhood sweetheart for 70+ years, a staunch supporter of the social safety nets for aged and less fortunate Americans, as well as a lifelong advocate of NASA and of first class science education in the kind of well-funded public schools that kick-started his own career.  (Contrast this with the politicians we elect nowadays -- lying, self-dealing confidence artists -- and feel sorry for yourselves.)

I was in boarding school in England when all this happened, so wasn't stateside for the hoopla, although I soon learned about it, from the teachers (mistresses) at tea time when we all sat down together. (Don't get any big ideas about "tea" at 1960's boarding schools. In those days it was brown bread and a single pat of butter, and several cups of hot tea--and that, dear readers, was all there was to eat until morning, where we received the same tea and bread all over again.) At any rate, the news made me happy. It was about time our power house country caught up with those "Ruskies!"

In the '60's, kids like me were called "children of broken homes," and mine certainly had been, with violence and betrayal, via a divorce granted by some southern state which deemed child support unnecessary. Nevertheless, I remained proud of my nation, though my classmates, whose parents remembered the great days of the British Empire, often scoffed. When I heard the news about that orbital flight--me, the solitary "Yank" walking the 45 degree halls of the grand old buildings where we boarders  housed--I experienced a chest puffing moment of national pride!

One evening soon after, I stood, wrapped in my robe, in the top floor hall where three flights of stairs ended. I sang "America the Beautiful" as perfectly as I was able. My voice, of which I was proud, reverberated nicely inside the space. Though I was far away from home, alone, with no support on any side, I was, on that long ago day, proud to be an American and not afraid for anyone to know it.

So, with the passing of John Glenn, another chapter in my own old memory "copybook" closes, one of a more hopeful time. As Scott Carpenter -- now the sole survivor of the Mercury Missions  -- radioed on that day in 1962 -- "God Speed, John Glenn."  

Oldest man to fly in space, John Glenn, October 29, 1998

~ Juliet Waldron

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