Friday, April 22, 2011

Clapping: Old People’s Answer to Gettin’ Down

A couple of Christmases ago, the second grade classes at my school went to see an abridged adaptation of the Nutcracker at the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta. Before the ballet began, a rather peppy man played rousing Christmas tunes on the big old pipe organ there and I clapped along to the music, having myself a merry olde tyme. Eventually, I noticed that I was just about the only person clapping.

My students certainly weren’t clapping. They were too busy checking the bottoms of the seats for old chewing gum and pretending to have to go to the bathroom. My young colleagues weren’t clapping either. They were checking Facebook for status updates on their new-fangled phones.

That’s when I realized that I was officially and certifiably old.

Since then, I’ve begun clapping to all kinds of music in all kinds of places, but the place I like to clap best is all by myself in my easy chair as I watch TV. I clap when I hear the theme music on Friends re-runs, but, then again, who doesn’t clap to that?  Even the Friends themselves clap at one point in the song.  My current favorite clapping tune, however, is the theme from Property Virgins on HGTV.  It requires a kind of syncopated clapping, or what I like to call Advanced Elderly Clapping.  Whippersnappers are not equipped to perform AEC; they just don't have enough life experience.  Nor do they have the necessary gnarled digits.

Since I live in a small condo with a shared outside entry, I do wonder what my young neighbor thinks when he arrives home from work, with plans for his evening in his Blackberry, a twelve pack under his arm, and me happily clapping on the other side of my door.

But before my neighbor or any of my young friends or family members snicker derisively about  how pitiful (yet rhythmically gifted) I am, I need to inform them that the good news for me (and for them too at some future point) is that I am, at my advanced age, just as happy, and in some cases, even happier than I was back in the day when I was chasing the perfect tan, the good-enough man,  the cutest shoes, the newest diet, and the American Dream.

Nowadays, what I have is pretty much what I want and I no longer feel the need to make my mark on the world.  All I'm chasing these days are my current interests, what I'm going to eat for my Early Bird Dinner, and that new Kraft Philly Cheese commercial with the perfect beat for a spirited clapping session.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Introduction to Looking for Junanto

 Mama in Arizona, Summer of 1941

Looking for Junanto is the story my mother’s life from December 7, 1941, the day Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, to February 12, 1946, the day she married my father. I’m going to tell it in parts, so as not to overwhelm you with too much to read at one time, or me with too much to think about and organize. Some of it will be in her words, from a taped interview I did with her on New Year's Day, 2000.   The rest will be my interpretation of what her life was like, based on family lore and photographs I’ve inherited. The title comes from the word Junanto, which was written on the back of several of the more interesting photographs. It's a word my mother never used in describing that time and it's a word for which Google was of no help.

Below is from Mama directly:

Well, Pearl Harbor happened. Like everybody, I was shocked to death. I was in Jerome (living at home with her parents in Arizona) and teaching school. We heard it early Sunday morning on the radio. I think I was sewing. And, of course, I had no idea of anything that I was going to do. I was anxious to do something, anything, besides live at home.  Going back to Jerome had probably been s stupid thing to do.

Some time in the early spring, they began talking about training people for different things, and one of them was Physical Therapy. You see, I was teaching physical education and the requirement to take the physical therapy program was that you had a degree in physical education or you were a degree nurse. I read about it first in my professional magazine, and so I think I wired, you didn't telephone then. I sent a telegram asking for further information. They told me I could go to a school in Michigan, Ann Arbor. It wasn't the University. It was a school that was run by Sister Kenny; she was a physical therapist who went from England to Australia, and then she came to the United States. She was the originator of physical therapy in the United States. She had a training program. Anyway, I considered going there, and about that time I heard about the Army program, which was free. And we were to be paid - a pittance - while we were in training. 

The first time that I applied, they told me that I couldn't see well enough, and with almost return mail, they sent me a wire and said that it didn't matter whether I could see or not. They told me to report to Washington, DC, a hospital there, almost immediately. Then the next telegram said that they were starting a school in Texas and for me to go to Texas, so I did. But I didn't go until about the middle of the summer. That's when I ended up in Texas at Fort Sam Houston. There were five of us; we were the first class.

So, it seems that my mother joined the Army and began a journey that took her to places I've certainly never been because she was living at home after college and was bored. That, in turn, led to the life she lived for the next five years and ultimately to her marriage to my father and the births of my brother and me.

What if my mother had loved living with her parents after college?  What if she'd done her training in Washington instead of Texas?  What if her eyesight had, in fact, been her undoing when it came to joining the Army?

Our very existence, it seems, is based so precariously on some things falling apart and other things coming together. 

And most likely, in many cases, boredom.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Marcia's Spring Break Adventure: Part 6 -What I learned along the way

 McCormick and his Reaper

I just got home and am happy to be here, but the trip was fantastic and my hands weren't nearly as sweaty driving back as they were driving there, so I guess by using it, I didn't lose it.  And other than proving to myself (and the general driving public) that I can still navigate long distances, I also learned the following along the way:
  • It took eight states to get me where I was going and back.  Those states, in order of when I first encountered them, are Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and South Carolina.  Tennessee and West Virginia were surprises as I didn't pay very close attention to the map.
  • Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical reaper, actually had a farm and it still exists in either North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or South Carolina.  Again, I really had no idea where I was for much of my trip (Thanks to Tom).
  • I tend to have to pee about every two hours.
  • Whereas when I was younger and a trucker honked at me, I knew he was flirting.  Now, it means I've left my trunk open.
  • There was an NPR station available during the entire five days I was traveling in all eight states, and, except for all that time they wasted playing classical music, I was mightily educated and entertained.  I've never been happier to be a liberal.
  • My hair has more volume up north than it does down south, which is a surprise because of the humidity we have.  For the middle part of my trip, I looked like I'd been involved in an unfortunate vacuum cleaner accident.
  • My brother is much richer than I am.
  • My friend, Nancy, is a better hostess than I am.
  • No matter what Tom says, I should never, ever drive 55 miles per hour in the left lane of the Capital Beltway during rush hour.
  • Extra large panties fit me quite well, although I believe spring colors make my butt look smaller.
  • And finally, I don't think Tom and I will make it as a couple.  Toward the end of our trip, I could detect the tiniest little whine in his voice when I didn't do exactly what he said.  I don't want to get to the point in our relationship where he starts telling me which way the stove is (turn right and turn right again) so I can fry him up some bacon and hash browns.  I think it would be best if we are just traveling buddies.
Bottom line, I'm proud I did it and proud that I lived to tell about it, and I'm proud to have all of you friends who went along for the ride with me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marcia’s Marvelous Spring Break Adventure: Part 5 - What I'll remember

Kutzville Nancy and her home
Greetings from Wytheville, VA. I just had dinner at the Sagebrush Steakhouse and Saloon. I had the Sagebrush Salad.  

If you think you somehow happened upon my post from Monday again, you didn't.  I'm staying at the same motel and I ate at the same restaurant and I ordered exact same meal.

Someone pointed out earlier this week that I might not be the most spontaneous of people.  I can't imagine where she got that idea.  After all, on Monday, I stayed in Room 112.  Tonight I'm across the hall in Room 111 and everything is backwards!  Not that I noticed.

Anyway, since part of the purpose of my trip was to get out of my rut (and I think I've proved that), and to create memories, below are some of the things I'll remember:
  • my brother looking healthy and happy and anticipating his future with his family and his retirement (which I'll believe when I see it) and spending time with my sister-in-law, Katherine, and my all-grown-up niece, Taylor,
  • visiting with my friend, Nancy, and talking about writing and teaching and learning and being who we are no matter how crazy we may look to others and staying at the beautiful and oh-so-Nancy home she has created for herself,
  • talking to Molly each day at noon as she was on her way to teach her English classes for her internship and hearing the excitement in her voice as she takes the plunge into what will most likely be her life,
  • wishing my grandson, Miles, a happy 4th birthday and talking to his mother, my daughter, on the phone, and hearing that Mile's sister, Georgia (my granddaughter), had yogurt up her nose and that Miles' birthday is being held at a bowling alley, and being happy I'm too old to raise kids;
  • participating in a virtual high five with my son, Billy, as he broke the news of his raise at work and shared a picture of his daughter (my granddaughter), Cami, eating sushi with real chopsticks,
  • the freedom of a long drive and having the time to think and plan and look at this beautiful country of ours,
  • and the realization that I can still find my way - even if I do need the help of a friend like Tom.
Tomorrow is the last day of my trip and it's a good thing because I'm almost out of my new spring extra large underwear.  

So bare with me.  Just one more report from the road.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Marcia's Spring Break Adventure: Part 4 -Why I can't live up north

So far on this trip, I've mispronounced several important words.  Yesterday, when talking to my niece, Taylor, about her annual Robert Burns birthday celebration, I called haggis hoggis.  Now, I know haggis is made out of a sheep's innards and not a pig's belly, but we don't talk about haggis (or Robert Burns) very much in the South so my mouth couldn't remember how to say it right.

Then later, when we went out to eat at a high falutin Eyetalian restaurant (one I even had to change out of my t-shirt for), I called gnocchi no-chi instead of no-kee.  I bet I could have gotten the word nooky right but that never came up as we were discussing just what wine went with what en-tray.

This morning, while driving with my boyfriend, Tom, I got pretty excited when I saw the name of a town in Maryland that I thought was Cockeyesville.   But when I stopped and asked the rather uppety sales clerk about it, she said that the town's name isn't pronounced cock-eyes-ville.  It's cockysville, which I think is maybe even funnier, although she didn't.

I've decided, however, not to worry about my verbal blunders as I believe they are part of my charm.  Plus, we Georgians are known for mispronouncing many things, including our cities and towns.  For, example, we pronounce Cairo as Karo (like the syrup) and Vienna as Vi-enna (like the sausage).    Even when we don't mispronounce places, we like to have fun with them.  For example,  in  the South Georgia town of Climax, folks like to watch the yankees drive through the town limits over and over again for that multiple Climax experience.  They also like to give their satisfied visitors a speeding ticket each trip just as a reminder of their good time.

One thing I have loved up here in the Great Far North is the college town of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where my friend, Nancy, lives and where I'm reclining as I blog.  Pronounced koot as in book, not kut as in but, it's just about the cutest little college town I've ever seen.  I would stay  and enjoy it a bit longer but it's just above 30 degrees here in April and I left my heavy jacket back where we were hanging out and talking about  how to pronounce haggis, so I guess I'll start heading home tomorrow.

Kutztown, Pennsylvania, home of Kutztown University

Travels with Tom - Part 3

Tom and I made it to Bethesda pretty well, although we took a tour of the Dolly Madison Highway somewhere in Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA, which was not supposed to be part of the route.  I have to admit that it was all my fault and not Tom's, although sometimes I just wish he would say, "Okay, dumbass, four hundred yards doesn't mean the very next driveway."  I have learned when he quips, "Take a left turn and then another left turn," what he really means is "Turn around, idiot."  I guess I'm just not used to men with good manners.

Speaking of the few men with good manners, my brother and his family are fine.   We had a nice dinner in Potomac, Maryland, and then we spent a while reminiscing about times gone by, which was a lot of fun.

This morning, Tom and I are on our way to Kutztown to see Nancy.  That's if I can find some gas first.  I bet there are some gas stations on the Dolly Madison Highway, but then again, I'm not sure if the CIA will be comfortable with my visiting them again quite so soon.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Break Travelogue – Part 2

Greetings from Wytheville, VA. I just had dinner at the Sagebrush Steakhouse and Saloon. I had the Sagebrush Salad.

But my big news is that I’m in love! I never thought it could happen at this point in my life.  No, I didn’t meet some cowboy at the Sagebrush and then bring him back to the Best Western. My new love is Tom! Remember Jeff’s friend Tom-Tom? Tom and I are now on a first name basis. It took a while for me to trust him. At first, I cast him aside, but he hung in there and got me through some tough times – like the Asheville Bypass. Holy Cow! I would’ve never made it without him.

Tom is a little insecure. He becomes a bit insistent when I veer off course to stop at a McDonald’s to go to the bathroom. “Turn around at your next opportunity” is what he says. Pretty cute, huh? At first, he clung to my windshield but I finally put him in my lap where he seemed pretty happy.  Tom has made me see that I can still navigate the world as long as he's with me.  We make a great team.

I can’t wait until tomorrow when Tom and I head up I-81 to Bethesda to meet my family. Until then, I wonder if he likes spring colors in extra-large cotton underwear. 

I hope he doesn’t snore.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Marcia’s Marvelous Spring Break Adventure: A Travelogue – Part 1

Under the category of Use It or Lose It, I’ve decided to spend my Spring Break navigating my way from Atlanta, via the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Bethesda, Maryland to see my brother and his family and then up to Kutztown, Pennsylvania to visit my friend, Nancy, who professes at the college there.

The young people I teach, and teach with, are traveling to exotic and thrilling places like Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, and Costa Rica. But, for me at my advanced age and level of disrepair, Bethesda and Kutztown are about as exotic as I can stand, especially since just getting to and from work via I-75 has become a thrill ride for me every day .

My plan is to take two days to get to Bethesda and two days to get back from Kutztown, leaving on Monday and returning home on Friday and spending one night with my brother’s family and one night with Nancy. This is because, like seafood, I start to stink after about twelve hours, and also so I can stop and smell the diesel fumes along the way.

After spending many hours with the Google Maps people, I’m either almost ready to go or so stressed out I’m going to have a stroke before I get out of my parking lot. Then there’s the Tom-Tom my friend, Jeff, lent me. When he first asked if I wanted to borrow it, I thought he was referring to a small drum I could use should I need entertainment or to send an SOS when I become lost in the Nantahala National Forest or on the Capital Beltway. But no, it’s a GPS doodad, although I must say that, after messing with it for quite a while and having it talk to me in that fake Australian accent, I’m sort of wishing for the drum.

This is what I've packed so far:
  • three 12-packs of Diet Coke (after all, I'll be gone for five whole days!)
  • my Kindle
  • the new cotton underwear I bought at Target.  I got size 8, which is extra large.  I could have probably done with just regular large but I wanted to be comfortable.  I do hope my traveling pants don't fall down around my ankles when I step away from the Corolla to snap a photo.  By the way, all five pairs are done up in spring colors, which I think adds a certain flair to my trip.
 When I leave in the morning, I hope to have packed a few more things, including clothes, deodorant, shoes, my camera, and laptop.  I plan to write an update each evening, based on my still being alive and internet access.

Speaking of planning, which the older I get the more I do, I asked my young Tom-Tom-less friend, Jeff, where he was going for spring break.  He said he might or might not head to New Orleans, depending on whether or not something better came along.  I spent a month planning a trip to Kutztown, Pennsylvania and Jeff hasn't decided yet if he will go to New Orleans tomorrow.

That's one of the many differences between Jeff and me.

The Curious Lament of a Former Second Grade Teacher

  The timing was perfect.   I was 56 and looking toward retirement but not yet ready, either physically, emotionally, or moneta...