snow day

There have been a lot of big storms in the United States in recent weeks. Our region hadn’t had too much bad weather – until yesterday and today.

The storm started Sunday morning with an extended period of freezing rain, which made driving inadvisable. Sunday evening, it changed to a heavy, wet snow and it has snowed nearly all day today (Monday). The trees and utility lines are all weighted down with snow. We have lost some limbs from the trees in our yard.

The roads are impossible to keep clear and all the schools, including the University, cancelled classes. Lots of businesses decided to close, as well, for the safety of their employees and customers. Our museum and science center closed. Even our doctors’ office is closed.

B and most of his colleagues are working from home.

As I was contemplating all the closings, I remembered snow days when E and T were young. One of them had learned a song in elementary chorus and we used to sing it sometimes when there are snow days. “There’ll be no school tomorrow, no school tomorrow, no school tomorrow, if it snows.”

And because YouTube exists now, I can search and find recordings! The words and music are by Jay Althouse.

writing, singing, etc.

I had been trying to post more regularly – and have now proceeded not to post for a week and a half. I’m sure that isn’t a shock to regular readers. As much as I hope to create a even a semblance of a schedule, I haven’t managed to get there yet.

Even though I haven’t been posting here, I’ve been doing a bit of writing. A letter to the editor at NCR online. A short piece that may appear as a Small Earth Story at NCR. A bio to accompany a poem that is going to be published soon. This will be in the mini-anthology that will be a companion to the winning chapbook from QuillsEdge Press; all the finalists will have a poem printed. This was also exciting because I had to approve the proof and sign a contract. It was a needed reminder that I am still a poet, even though I haven’t published much lately – or even submitted. Maybe, after the first of the year, I can concentrate on a revised version of the chapbook to send out…

I don’t have a choir with which to sing on a regular basis this fall, but have sung with the combined music ministry at church for three funerals over the last three weeks. All the funerals have been for family members of music ministers, the last being the brother of my friend, who has been director of music for decades. Sadly, she has had to play and direct for the funerals of both her parents and, now, her eldest brother. Another staff member described it as “her last gift to him.” Perhaps that, along with her professionalism and faith, is the way she can manage to keep her focus in such difficult circumstances.

At the luncheon after the funeral, I was sitting with people who I met years ago at our former parish. It’s been fourteen years since we were all together there. Even after so much time belonging to other parishes, we still miss it.

That our sense of connection remains strong is a testament to how special and loving the community was. It had a part in forming our identities and that is a lasting gift.

All Souls

In the Catholic tradition, early November is dedicated to remembering those who have died. November first is All Saints Day and November second is All Souls Day. Our parish does a special commemoration for All Souls Day of all the people whose funerals were held at the church since All Souls Day of the prior year. Family members loan the church a picture of the deceased and they are displayed on tables with name cards and candles for the whole month of November.

This year, my mom, known here on the blog as Nana, was one of those commemorated. I printed an enlargement of a favorite photo of her; Nana was not fond of having her picture taken, so photos of her alone are pretty rare. I bought a Shaker-style wooden frame for it. I admit that the liturgy was emotional for me, but it was also comforting. It also felt fitting that the handbell choir played at the mass. Nana always loved to hear E and T ring.

In the evening, I attended a concert for all souls by the Southern Tier Singers Collective (STSC). I know a number of the members, including one whom I met in University Chorus and with whom I have been close for years. The founder and director of the group is Bill Culverhouse, the current choral director at Binghamton University. The concert was beautiful, although the music was emotional for me, given that the loss of my mom is still very much in my mind and heart. Thankfully, I was able to join some friends from University Chorus in the audience, which helped me to feel supported during the performance.

The concert took place at Saint Patrick’s Church, Binghamton, which is considered the mother church in our county. The building is old, high-ceilinged, and has lots of hard surfaces, so the acoustics are good for choral singing, especially a capella, which is what STSC does. St. Patrick’s was the boyhood parish of my retired pastor, who sang there, in Latin, as an altar server. After his retirement from our parish, members of our music ministry came together there to participate in a mass celebrating his 50th anniversary of ordination. It was a large group with instrumentalists, so I helped out by conducting. Several years later, we came together again to sing for his wake service and funeral, so thoughts of him were also present in my mind.

The most moving piece in the concert for me was Dale Trumbore’s How to Go On (2017). She chose to set texts from 21st century women poets Barbara Crooker, Laura Foley, and Amy Fleury. The passages speak more to acceptance of mortality than to mourning. I loved the language of the poems and the often haunting, often meditative, way they were set. The piece begins with a question from Barbara Crooker’s poem “Some Fine Day”:  “How can we go on, knowing the end of the story?” I could feel my own answer to that question working its way through my mind in response to the poetry and music – and could imagine my mother’s.

There was a third woman that I could also imagine, a woman my age who died recently. I had sung in the choir for her funeral on Wednesday. She was a beloved member of our community, who used all her skills and gifts in service to her family, her work, and charitable causes. She died at our local hospice residence, where she had been serving as president of the board of directors. I know that she must have found her own answer.

A passage from the movement “Sometimes peace comes” from Laura Foley’s poem “Syringa” speaks to part of my answer at this point in my life.

and you have stepped into
a place beyond time,
beyond sadness and form.
A wide, high plain
where in the endless, deep silence
you find out what it is, what it is,
and your part in it.

 

What’s missing?

There are a lot of things I miss about our two-year-old granddaughter ABC not living with us anymore. Here are a few:

  • Her imagination. She would jump up and down, usually on the couch, pretending she was splashing in puddles. She would accompany this by saying (loudly) “Muddy puddles!” over and over, but the sound of the letter P is sometimes hard to get out, so it would sound like “Muddy cuddles!” Or she would stand behind the ottoman and say (loudly) “Ding, Ding! Ice cream!” She would then ask everyone in the room what kind of ice cream they wanted, repeat whatever we told her – it was fun naming exotic flavors – and pretend to hand it to us, saying, “Thank you!”
  • The extra trips to the ice cream stand, because she and the rest of us were often thinking about ice cream.
  • Having someone handy to sing to or with. I would sing hymns or folk songs to her as she was trying to fall asleep. We would do long renditions of “Old MacDonald” with all the farm animals and some more unusual animals thrown in. Sesame Street songs and “The Wheels on the Bus” and the alphabet and nursery rhymes. I even learned a new song, “Sleeping Bunnies.” She would act it out, starting out pretend-sleeping, with snoring added in for good measure, and then wake up and hop. The song does end with “hop and stop” so she didn’t hop forever, although she would ask for several renditions in a row.
  • Unexpected dance breaks: She was fond of the theme from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and, for some reason, the music they play on the local news while they show the stock market report. Most of the television we watch is recorded on our DVR and we would often back up and watch the stock report multiple times to allow for dancing. Okay, we would be watching the dancing more than the stocks.
  • Toy nostalgia: When E and T were little, they played with Little Tikes toys. Little Tikes no longer makes small toys, so it was nice see ABC playing with and loving the ones we had stored away. Her favorite was the school bus, which, like most US school buses, is yellow. She would get excited when she would see a school bus driving by, although she called every bus a school bus, whether it was or not. On the first videochat we did with them in London after the move, ABC was playing with a new, red, double-decker bus. London doesn’t have school buses; students walk or take public transport. I wonder how long it will take for “school bus” to drop out of ABC’s vocabulary.
  • ABC’s hugs and cuddles. Curling up on the couch with her for naptime, even when she would only sleep if she was lying on top of you, pinning you to the couch for the duration of the nap.
  • Perhaps what I miss most is having ABC’s mom, our daughter E, living here with us. She is great to talk with, as well as being thoughtful and knowledgeable. I would often ask her about current trends and understanding of words, so that I wouldn’t use words in a way that would be considered disrespectful by young adults. I learned about up-to-date baby and child care. E was able to take over a lot of the meal planning and preparing when I was needing to be with my parents over the months of Nana’s illness and was then busy with all the tasks that follow when someone passes away. I probably should have had her teach me to use the Instant Pot before she left, though…

Paco on the move!

October is a heavy-duty travel month for my family. It began with my trip to North Adams for the Boiler House Poets Collective’s fifth fall residency at MASS MoCA. (There are several posts about it earlier this month.)

On Sunday, my father, known here as Paco, and my two sisters flew to Ireland! Apparently, on Grandparents’ Day in September, Paco had been talking by phone with his grandson L and they talked a lot about Ireland, which is where Paco’s grandparents were from. L then called his mom (my younger sister) and said, “You need to take Paco to Ireland – now.”

In short order, she arranged for an expedited passport for Paco, made reservations for flights, accomodations, and a driver, and made lots of lists so everything would go smoothly. My older sister joined in to help and they jetted from JFK Airport to Shannon. It was the first time Paco had flown on a jet. His last plane flight had been coming home from the Korean Conflict! (He had also served in World War II.)

The three of them are now in the middle of a week in Killarney. They have a driver to take them out to see the sights. They have been sending us some photos and updates. Here is my favorite one of Paco so far:
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This evening, they were at a pub with a singer/guitarist performing. My sister requested “Danny Boy” for my father and it seems that everyone in the pub fell in love with Paco. One woman even came over and danced with him for a bit! Of course, what’s not to love about a 94-year-old man in a US Navy SeaBee cap, who is visiting Ireland for the first time?

JC Confessions #6

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

I am mostly oblivious to pop culture. If I read the Grammy nominations, chances are I don’t know any of the songs and haven’t heard of the majority of the artists. I haven’t ever seen Titanic or Avatar or Jurassic movies or the vast majority of superhero movies. I don’t stream and binge watch series from Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. and I don’t have premium television packages, which means that I also haven’t seen many of the shows nominated for Emmys, although I think it is good that I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale because I would probably have nightmares. I don’t watch collegiate or professional sports, except an occasional baseball game. I don’t vacation at theme parks.

I am involved with a few popular things, the most notable being the Harry Potter books and movies. For the most part, though, if you want to discuss a pop culture topic with me, you’ll likely have to explain it to me first.

Some people might say that I am elitist and they are entitled to that opinion. I would like to say in my defense that I grew up in a tiny town in New England, have never lived in a large city, and have never had a high-powered career. Even though I am now a poet, I am a community-educated one and most people find my poetry accessible rather than esoteric. But, the fact remains that I am a poet, so maybe I am guilty as charged…

Two-year-old ABC

Having our granddaughter ABC living in our home has been a privilege.

Now 26 months old, she is energetic and tall enough to climb onto furniture that used to be out of reach. She is still petite for her age, but she is similar to her mom in that regard.

Her bangs are almost long enough to tuck behind her ears.

She loves imaginative play. Lately, she has been running a pretend ice cream shop. She also has been loving eating ice cream, sometimes with sprinkles on top!

She is adding more and more words to her vocabulary and making longer sentences. She will also now address each person in the room when she is saying hello or good-bye.

It’s still a wonderful feeling when she snuggles near you, although if she suspects you are trying to get her to settle down to sleep, she is more likely to squirm to get down and starting running and jumping around in order to stay awake. Her mother used to do the same thing!

She has a new appreciation for books and will sit long enough for you to read each page, instead of just zooming through looking at pictures.

She loves to sing. She takes after her parents, who are both accomplished musicians. She sometimes devises her own codas to songs that she knows or comes up with her own little tunes. It is incredibly cute!

Among her new obsessions this summer, besides the aforementioned ice cream, are sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and riding the carousels. Our county has several historic – and free – carousels in our parks. Sometimes she will ask for dog – pig – cow, because one of her favorite carousels has a dog and a boar among the horses. The “cow” is actually a black and white paint horse that does resemble the dairy cows around here. Another park has all horses, but still has its original organ rather than using recorded music all the time as the other carousels do. This park also has a more accessible playground, which is easier for a small 2-year-old to navigate. Her favorite horse there is a palomino she has dubbed “yellow horse.”  When she asks for dog-pig-cow-yellow-horse, we take it to mean that any carousel will do!

And this will all end soon, and not just because summer will come to an end.

Some time in the coming weeks, E’s spousal visa will finally come through and she and ABC will move permanently to London to join their spouse and father L.

We know they will be happy to finally live together full-time, instead of just transoceanic visits.

But it will be so hard to have them so far away after having them so close for so long.