Flower power

Raise your hand if you don’t reach for your smartphone before you’re completely awake.

We all have that one thing we reach for in the groggy hours, whether it’s a trashy novel, a daily devotional, or Facebook, to help us get back to sleep at three a.m. or to help us wake up at six.

The night before last, I awoke in the wee hours to the then-important thought that I needed to toss some dead flowers before the trash truck arrived. Isn’t it always the small stuff we sweat in the darkness?

When it became clear that slumber wasn’t going to come back to claim me anytime soon, I reached for my trusty iPhone while admonishing myself, “Don’t think about flowers,” much like the exercise that calls us to not picture an elephant. The first thing that appeared on the screen: an email from 1-800-Flowers.

Naturally, I thought about flowers until I finally drifted off, shortly before the alarm rang. When it did, intending to hit the Snooze button, I turned it off altogether, and fell into the deepest sleep of my life.

The dreams were un-freaking-believable, transporting me to a netherworld I’d prefer to not see again, thankyouverymuch. When I awoke an alarming amount of time later, I was trapped in a dense fog, unaware of the day of the week or anything else.

I watched as my hand, over which I seemingly had no control, reached for the phone. I saw a private message from my priest. It read: “Your flower is asphodel.”

Obviously I was still dreaming. Or was I dead? Was my funeral being planned around me? Was I asleep or awake? What the hell is an asphodel?

When I asked the good reverend, I hope in a more reverent manner, she reminded me that I had registered interest in a Facebook meme: “Like this image [of a flower] and I’ll give you a flower to post. It’s part of an effort to beautify the web.” Ah yes, I had liked her flower and her effort to beautify the web.

One can’t argue that the web needs beautifying; I’ll gladly do my part. The problem is, I don’t know from flowers. In case you don’t either, here’s an asphodel: soft and starlike, delicate and beauty-ful, with sparks of bright color. Perhaps even my new favorite flower.

Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Wallace

Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Wallace

Or perhaps, a suitable mantra for my nocturnal meditations.

Asphodel.

Asphodel.

Asphodel.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Technology and Social Media

In these shoes

Just to set the scene: This morning I’m coming to you in pajamas and high heels.

I’m told this is important preparation for one of life’s biggies. Wear the heels around the house so they don’t shred your tootsies when it counts: when you’re Motherofthegroom, standing for hours, with the weight of the world—and your body, your soul, your heavy emotions—held atop scantly more than a match stick, four inches high and an eighth of an inch around.

The Boy is getting married in a week. You remember when he graduated from college four years ago. In addition to getting a degree there, he found a mate for life. Next Saturday, they’re making it official at a small ceremony near their home in North Carolina.

They (whoever they are) say that Motherofthegroom has three jobs: smile, keep her mouth shut and wear beige. The bride and groom, having tended to nearly all preparations themselves, have made my job a piece of cake. Admittedly, Fatherofthegroom and I made a wave or two when we wanted to invite the universe, but the young people were set on keeping it intimate. And so it shall be.

As these stilettos—beige, by the way—endure their breaking in, they spur contemplation.

In these shoes, I’ll stand and watch The Boy take another big step.

In these shoes, I’ll become a mother-in-law, hopefully the best one this dear, beautiful bride deserves.

In these shoes, I’ll vow silently to cut the titanium apron strings and hope for the courage and guidance the severing demands.

In these shoes, I’ll pray silently for grandchildren and for the inspiration to be the best Nanny in generations.

In these shoes, I’ll thank God for my own marriage, for the best son in the world and the choice he made in a wife, for family members overcoming illness and disability to be there and for a whole new family to love, honor and annoy.

In these shoes, I’ll hand Fatherofthegroom Kleenex. Lots of Kleenex.

In these shoes, I’ll think of all those, alive and not, who aren’t there for the occasion but who should know how special they are to us. I’ll take pictures. Lots of pictures.

Okay, shoes. Let’s do this.

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Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends

The Lollipop that got away

Yesterday saw the passing of one of the most pioneering of child performers, Shirley Temple.

As Internet and television news outlets review her more than 80 years of accomplishments in entertainment and political life, everyone is playing and replaying the most famous clip – the cherubic actress belting out “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”

Cripes, another childhood memory:

Saint Dominic’s Catholic School, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1968. For the school’s annual musical performance, second graders were divided into two groups. One performed “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” made famous by Shirley Temple. The other performed “Dearie.” If you remember it, then you’re much older than I. For the benefit of those who don’t, it was made famous by Ethel Merman.

Can you guess to which group I was assigned? This eight-year-old had to sing a song made famous by Ethel-freakin’-Merman.

Sorry for the outburst. The months I spent at Saint Dominic’s packed a chest of gloomy memories in the old emotional attic; that movie clip cracked the lid for a second.

The kids assigned to the Lollipop group got to wear cute, short sailor dresses and sing about bon-bons while dancing a perky little shuffle. I still remember a few of the steps. I made a point to learn them in the hopes that Sister Somebodyorother might spot my raw perkiness and switch me into the good group.

The other group did their number seated in rocking chairs, donning gray wigs and dressed in ankle-length frocks, because “Dearie” is about getting old. Not to mention the references to things no second grader would relate to. One group, lemonade stands; the other, running boards.

My father still teases me about how grumpy I was when we rehearsed, my lips pursed and eyes rolling. “Do you remember?” Yes, I remember.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay

Lemonade stands everywhere
Crackerjack bands fill the air
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar

See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
With the big bad devil’s food cake
If you eat too much ooh ooh
You’ll awake with a tummy ache

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a night trip into bed you hop
And dream away
On the good ship lollipop

By Richard A. Whiting and Sidney Clare

Dearie

Dearie, do you remember when we
Waltzed to the Sousa band
My wasn’t the music grand

Chowder parties down by the seashore
Every Fourth of July.

My Dearie, Do you recall
when Henry Ford couldn’t even fix
the running board under a Chandler six

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember when we
Stayed up all night to get
Pittsburgh on a crystal set

Keystone movies, Coogan and Chaplin
Made you laugh and then cry

My Dearie, do you recall
When Orville Wright flew at Kitty Hawk
Take it from me, I would rather walk

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember how they
Loved Harry Lauder’s act?
My wasn’t the Palace packed

Jenny Lind presented by Barnum
Sang her sweet lullaby

Test your memory my Dearie,
Chicago all in flames sure caused a terrific row
They blamed it on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Do you remember?
Yes, I remember.

Well if you remember, Dearie
You’re much older than I.

By David Mann and Bob Hilliard

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Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

Epiphany

January. I don’t have much use for it; hate it, really.

January is a dark and cold reminder that we’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, spent too much, perhaps slept too little, for way too long. Boom. The scale. The credit card bills. Dry, cracking, pasty skin. Freezing pipes.

Every January I’d like to turn myself inside out and hide until the first crocus peeps through the thawing ground.

Not today.

Call me nuts, but today I added about 20 Christmas cards, which have trickled in over the last two weeks, to our sprawling display. Every year I use nearly two full rolls of masking tape to affix incoming cards to the molding around the doorways in our home. One hundred seven in all this year–so far.

Today it hit me. One hundred seven people or families expressed their love and good wishes – to us!

One hundred seven people went to the time and expense to buy or hand-make cards. Some signed their names or wrote lengthy personal notes. Some even addressed envelopes. They spent 46 cents apiece for stamps. They went to the mailbox. To wish us a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Today, in the frigid darkness of the month I despise, I counted 107 expressions of good wishes. And, as I counted these blessings, I saw light. I felt warmth.

In the rush of opening the mail, we can forget that there is meaning in the wishes that honor the holy event we celebrate in December, and there’s immeasurable hope in the wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Fellow January-haters: Let us thumb our noses at seasonal affective disorder by re-reading our Christmas cards (if they haven’t already gone out with our dried out evergreens) or remembering at least one person who wished us well, and appreciate how much we are loved.

And let there be light.

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays

Into the ears of babes

The question of the day: Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?

Perhaps more important, what did it mean to you at the time? For me, it all boils down to one word.

On November 22, 1963, I was three weeks away from turning four years old. As young as I was, I can still remember it well. It was late afternoon, getting dark, and I was playing on a swing set with a neighbor boy across the street. His older brother came out of the house and yelled, “The president was shot!” My playmate responded with something like “Oh, no; that’s terrible!” We all ran inside to find their mother in front of the television, hysterical.

Without paying much attention to the TV news story, I probably toddled home for dinner as almost-four-year-olds did in early-1960s suburbia.

I hadn’t grasped what had just happened; still, I was upset. There was only one meaning of “shot” in my young consciousness. And it was indeed horrific.

For me, “shot” was what the nurse gave you when you were sick. On every drive to my pediatrician, Dr. Bunce, I’d ask my mother, “Will I have to get a shot?” I’d tremble with fear and anxiety until the appointment was finished and I was sucking on my good-job-being-brave lollipop. Getting a shot was the worst possible thing to come from a doctor visit (next to spending Christmas in the hospital, which is what I did later that year, but that’s a story for another day).

So, on November 22, as far as I was concerned, the anguish I witnessed in the neighbor’s back yard, in their living room and, most likely, in my own house was a result of the President of the United States being injected with a needle. I probably wondered if he got a lollipop.

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran an article on how parents can help their young children understand clips of Abraham Zapruder’s footage they’d see in the news coverage of today’s 50th anniversary. Sadly, gunfire isn’t new to today’s youngsters. I’m just glad I made it almost to age four oblivious to anyone being killed with a gun.

On a brighter note, I’m reminded of a scene in the 1989 movie, When Harry Met Sally in which Harry is out with a much younger woman. Attempting to make conversation, he asked her where she was when Kennedy was shot. The date replied, “Ted Kennedy was shot?” Out of the mouths of bimbos.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Health, News, Politics

Close but no guitar

Just got in from Nashville. Music City. Capital of Tennessee. Home of the Predators (now that I’m a hackey mam I know this), the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I hadn’t been to the “Athens of the South” since 1990, when I attended a conference at the Opryland hotel. I didn’t see a thing then and didn’t see a thing today. Correction: I saw meeting rooms both times.

Nashville is on my husband’s bucket list. He wants to see the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. I’ve been walking the floor over someone wanting to go such a long way to buy records. Tripadvisor lists 113 things to see and do there–including the record shop.

Today I was within arm’s reach of Music Row; I passed the sign on my way to the airport. As with Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, I took a mental picture at 35 miles per hour.

Finally, this afternoon I managed to hear some budding country artists as they strummed and sang and sought to make it big—from the C concourse at Nashville International. I imagined Ernest Tubb getting his start right there across from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.

So, I bring you no good stories from Nashville today–though I do have one from 1990. As I was riding to the Opryland with a colleague from Brooklyn, New York, she recounted how she had called the hotel the day before. She asked the operator, “Do you have a gym there?” The operator said, “Honey, we have thirty-five hundred people in this hotel. You’re gonna have to give me a last name.”

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Filed under Music, Travel

Moreover

When I was young my father used to tell me the story of a professor who, after a lengthy absence—perhaps years—finally returned to the classroom, and began his lecture with “However, . .” You may know the story. I failed to find it on the internets, and my father, now 81, is on the road working, and I hesitate to interrupt him.

Four months since my last blog post, I shall begin this one with “Moreover, . . .”

The Word Nymph last laid on you a tale of woe, of illness and death and, my apologies, it has hung out here like a slab of decaying flesh since Memorial Day. Anyone visiting this place has read of my husband’s and my medical mysteries, our friend in the ICU, the passing of a cousin, and other sharp stones the universe has flung in our path.

Moreover, the friend died after seven months in the ICU, while the cousin’s brother died suddenly four months later, followed by two additional losses in the same family. A friend here and there also left this place and, sadly, there are others in the queue. Moreover, my mother is struggling to recover from a terrible tumble she took in August.

If you’ve become acquainted with the people I spoke of on May 31, you’ll be happy to know that the babies born four months premature are home and healthy as of this past week. I know I am.

As for my husband and me, we’re doing better. My body is functioning at full throttle and my husband’s brain waves, according to that zany take-home EEG, are hunky-dory.

I continue to suffer from a severe case of creative writer’s block, long unsuccessful at keeping the technical and scientific writing I do in my day job from infecting the right chamber, but we’ll get back to it, I promise.

However, I do have a new concern about my husband; perhaps you have some advice.

The last two mornings, I’ve gone downstairs to find him, instead of watching the news as usual, listening to the Carpenters’ greatest hits.

By the way, I know I misused “Moreover.” I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health, Music