Flotsam and Jetsam
Early mornings I’d lie in bed, watching Margie nurse the baby as she sat in the rocking chair next to the bed. When the baby had had her fill, Margie would place her on the bed: “Dada, Dada, Dada.” She’d climb onto my head, over my face, onto my chest, straddle my neck. We’d talk.
(I’d flap the clean bed sheet with a vigorous flick of my wrists. At the other end of the sheet Margie knew to hold on tight. With our arms extended forward, the sheet hung between us like a flag. To make the first fold of the sheet, we’d step once toward and a half step sidewise, as in a dance. At the top of the repeat step, I’d surrender the sheet to Margie who’d make the final fold.
Tweezing Nose Hair
Nose hair is an important part of your body’s defense
system. It helps keep dust, allergens and other
particles from entering your lungs. Removing too much
hair makes your nose more sensitive to those
kinds of debris. Plucking your hair can also
lead to irritations, infections and ingrown hairs.
“Debris? Up my nostrils! Into my lungs!” I cast aside my tweezers.
But, I have never suffered these afflictions – never a chunk of debris in my lungs. I reach again for my tweezers. A pinch, not quite pain not quite pleasure, the kiss of a hummingbird.
Hay Fever Season
Nasal corticosteroids such as Prednisone appeared on the market in 1955. Antihistamines appeared about seventy years ago. Cromolyn sodium (Spectrum, Intal), seventy three years ago. At the first sneeze we reach for something that will help us.
Before 1955, the the advent of the hay fever season struck terror among the allergic. Here’s how Helen Headley Ridge, my mother-in-law, dealt with hay fever in the 1930s. I found her handwritten note in one of her books, a bookmark:
Trucking in Williamstown, New Jersey
My cousin, Joey Genova, lives in Williamstown, New Jersey. Joey’s mother was my first cousin. His father was my father’s godson. Joey owns the sole remaining trucking business in town. The business had been founded by his father in the 1930s.
Now Joey’s son runs the southern terminus of the company in Tampa, Florida, and Joey’s daughter runs the office in Williamstown. Joey looks in two or three days a week. If you eat a pizza in Tampa, or a dish of pasta, the tomato sauce very likely has come from Williamstown.
Joey grew up in the trucking business which his father had run from the big house on the family farm. The truck yards, located well behind the house, had been carved out from the farm fields. At thirteen years of age, Joey was already re-positioning the big 18-wheelers around the truck yards.
Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Mount Ephraim and Arney’s Mount are the names of old towns in Burlington County, New Jersey. These Mounts are modest, of note only in flat New Jersey. Still, the locals climbed them, for the view, for the air, and to launch the Fourth of July fireworks. Today, Burlington County has sanitary landfills which are taller than the Mounts.
In her email, she apologized for her tardiness in answering her grandmother’s hand written letter. She said she could not easily read cursive.
Poor child. She’s never known that gentle regimen, tracing line after line A’s and B’s, and C’s … the perfect O’s, the little tail on the O that made it a Q.
My father kept a copy of his handwritten name in his wallet. On Friday evenings, at the kitchen table, he’d laboriously copy his name onto the back of his paycheck.
Signatures are rich in allusions: letters home, birth certificates, mortgages, deaths. I am reborn whenever I write my name. Her typescript name is not truly hers. My signature is uniquely mine.
On the Serengeti, On the Medford Leas
A lioness, flat on her stomach in the sparse tawny ground cover, observes the herd of wildebeests from about two hundred yards away. Then, keeping flat to the ground, she very slowly approaches the herd unseen until she is about thirty yards away. She makes her move! She can run fast but not for long. Wildebeests can run fast and forever.
The wildebeests spot the lioness and they flee toward the center of the herd, which is not as tightly packed as it seemed. The perimeter bends inward and a concavity appears, like a bite out of a pizza. A wildebeest panics and darts out laterally. The lioness veers toward it, lunges, mounts it for a a few yards before bringing it down. She claws her way to the wildebeest’s throat. The lioness is exhausted but she holds on.
The fleeing wildebeests slow down. Surprisingly, with the lioness and the fallen wildebeests only 50 yards away, the large pizza bite in the perimeter of the herd fills in quickly and its symmetry is restored. The wildebeests soon graze peacefully even while the spent lioness and the fallen wildebeest are very near. The danger has past, for today.
On the Medford Leas
Two residents stand before that part of the bulletin board that is trimmed in black. “Josephine! I saw her two weeks ago.” A man approaches. The woman turns,“It’s Josephine!” “Josephine! I can’t believe it. She seemed fine.” Others arrive, forming a semi-circle around the bulletin board. The news spreads.
“When’s the memorial service?”
The caterers have prepared a long table along the back wall of the room: coffee urn, cold drinks, and piles of party food, The Lounge is crowded with members of Josephine’s family and her many friends on campus,. A nine year resident, Josephine was popular.
Her grandson’s tribute is eloquent, lightened with humor. Many of her friends speak up, remembering the good times. Soon her family members blend among the residents. It’s a party!
The server at the food table is busy. A lively hemisphere of guests forms in the center of the room. Soon little mention of Josephine is heard. The immediate family members depart first; some have come a long way. Many residents persist; it’s a party. Then they too thin out, some walking with canes, some with walkers, a few with electric scooters. Soon the room is empty. The memorial service is over.
“It dropped,” Margie’s mother would say, more perplexed than annoyed at the betrayal of her fingertips. She was 90 years old.
“It dropped” The baby aspirin fell to the countertop. I pushed it to the edge with my fingertip, into my hand, into my mouth with a swallow of water.
Flotsam and Jetsam(Reprise)
Did you ever see your parents kiss?
Did you ever see your parents embrace?
Did you ever hear them say, to each other, I love you (ti amo)?
Yellow mealworms, the larvae of the Tenebrio Moliter beetle, were approved for human consumption by the European Union’s food safety agency. Harper’s Weekly Magazine.
Although cheaper I no longer buy my vitamins in the large bottles, which hold 500 pills. At one pill per day, that’s a year, three month’s and fifteen days worth of pills.