There are often times when I have to drive our customer’s cars to and from other shops – body shop, carburetor shop, detailer, etc. Most of the cars that are coming or going to these places are old. I just returned from picking up a customers 1973 Nova. The drive was short and with each and every mile my life flashed before my eyes as well as what I was going to tell her when I crashed into someone pulling out in front of me. This car has 4 wheel drum brakes with no power assist.
It’s cold and raining out this morning and who knows when the car was last started. I put in the key and turned it over. It didn’t stay running and I realized that I had to use a manual choke. In doing so it started immediately.
The first thing I noticed was the narrow, large steering wheel, the second was the seat belt. I didn’t notice the seat belt so much as couldn’t find it and had to drive the entire way with the buzzer and light flashing on the dash. When you step on the gas this car wants to go (it has a 5.7L V8) but this is not a fine handling car and, once again, the brakes were a little scary.
In 1973 I knew a few people who had these cars. They were considered a pretty good, economical car at the time. I get into these cars of the past now and I wonder how any of us survived. The thought of thousands of cars on the road with a lot of power and bad brakes gives me pause. Bill often talks about his childhood trips to the Cape where parents and seven children piled into a nine passenger wagon with drum brakes and bias ply tires and drove at 70 mph down the new highway towing a boat. Wow. That’s all that we knew. Makes me wonder what kind of engineers they had in the 70′s though.
I think we all look at many things of our childhoods with nostalgia – with the idea that the older things were better. I have a waffle iron from the 40′s that is without a doubt the best waffle iron I have ever used but I’m not really risking my life when I use it (well, maybe I’m risking some sort of electrical injury or burning down my house). Cars are different. We take them out on the road and trust that everyone is driving the best they can, undistracted, courteous.
I know when I got into that car all I could think was that its owner should not be driving it and wondered how she has survived driving it this long (she bought it new). You see, she is in her mid to late 80′s. She owns 3 cars, this one and two 1967 Volvo 122s. She can barely see over the steering wheel in any of them. The Volvos are standard shift cars. Whenever I have to drive one of them I feel like one of the Weasleys taking a joy ride in a Ford Anglia in “The Chamber of Secrets”. I feel that way every. single. time. I drive those cars – magical and scary, out of control.
Our Volvo/Nova owner has never driven a car newer than one built in 1973. She doesn’t know there are cars that are easier to drive. If I pick her up in my car in the heat of summer I can only put down the window because she can’t abide a/c. I have to put them down for her because there isn’t a crank on the door.
For her there is nothing nostalgic about the cars that she drives, they are what they are. When I get into them it gives me a reality check on how far the technology has come and the comforts we enjoy in the cars that have been built in the past 20 years. There’s a world of difference. It also helps me to place what I come from and how far I’ve travelled. It is truly amazing.
It was just a little over a year ago that I spent a day with Jenna Woginrich, Jon Katz and Jim Kunstler at Jenna’s house on a snowy day listening and talking about the way of words. Their creative process, their commitment to producing material that is fired out into the ether for anyone to read. The baring of souls in some respect. I made a commitment that day that I would write something on this blog every weekday for a year. For the most part I did it.
This has been an interesting endeavor. I have a few followers (more than I ever expected), many of who comment here. I have cyber friends that are like-minded. One of the most interesting things for me is the number of people who tell me in person that they enjoy reading my blog. That makes me laugh a little bit but it also adds another little dimension to what this started out to be.
This has been a difficult year on a personal level. I have tried to keep everything here positive even when things weren’t that way in real life. If I keep the story going it will become a reality – and in some ways it has. It forces me to look at the little things that make up each day and pay particular notice to the gifts that are right in front of me. I like to point them out here so the blog has made me much more aware of the good things happening around me even if they are very small. I’m always looking.
It has helped me consider photography in a way that I had not for many years. Images were the way I made a living for a long time and it seemed exhausting to me to take the camera out to capture a sunrise or the birds in the garden. I made the commitment to post a photo a day with the blog and it helped me to see again. Not only do I listen for the little gifts I look for them as well.
So my year commitment is over but it will continue without the urgency of a New Year’s resolution. I have found that looking for the gifts and sharing them here has become a minor addiction and one should never overlook the good things no matter how small.
I don't know you. All I know is what I learned from our altercation last night. And, based only on that, I'm betting you probably think you can get away with doing what you did without anyone calling attention to it.
But I've got this little blog here, and I can use it to seek justice.
And justice, in this case, means saying thank you.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
- Wendell Berry
Every year for the 18 or so years of my daughter’s lives I photographed them around this time of year for the annual Christmas card. It was a personal challenge to send out the best photograph I could of them to all of our family and friends.
In the beginning I owned a photography studio in Enfield and was photographing many, many children – most of them were under 10 years old. There was a decided difference in photographing my own and someone else’s. The easy part is that these girls were conditioned to be photographed. I knew the words and ways to make them smile a natural smile and I had nothing but time to spend doing it. The difficulty came in the fact that they knew what buttons to push.
I would meticulously plan the dresses and where the photograph would be taken. I would dress them and drag them to the desired location and wait for the light to be just so or set up the studio before they arrived. Each session over the years had its problems (as every session always does). It also brought me great memories of the “behind the scenes” kinds of things that went on. They would manipulate me and I would manipulate them as parents and children will always do.
What seemed to every recipient of the yearly photograph to be of well behaved, well dressed little girls really was the product of hours of coercion, bribery, threats. It was also, in the early years, the power of bathroom words. Telling them to say something that they knew was considered a bad word took their minds off of the fighting between the two of them.
It’s this time of year that I look back fondly on those sessions – some great, some not so much. They are the fabric of our collective past and what makes up a little part of who we are now and our relationship to each other. I’m sure their perspective is totally different – everyone’s truth and story is but we are all on the journey together.
As the holiday season is upon us take the time to look at the little things that make up your traditions. Take out those old dusty family photos (God knows mine are) and reminisce about what was important to you then with the loved ones you have now. It can give you a fresh perspective on the journey you’re taking and bring home it’s the little things that really make up who you are.
The Thanksgiving holiday ends when the soup is done. That’s the way I look at it anyway. Saturday afternoon, after guests had had their fill of all things turkey I removed the meat from the bones and made stock in a very large pot. I strained the broth and put the pan in the shed to cool overnight. The temperature hadn’t been above 25 degrees so it’s as good as any refrigerator.
Sunday morning I skimmed the fat and heated the stock. This is where we come to the rest of the ingredients. Everything that was leftover from Thanksgiving went into the pot. Mashed potatoes, squash, rutabaga, gravy, it all went in. Using this as the base for your turkey soup gives it the most wonderful flavor and thickens it to the perfect consistency. Last but not least comes the leftover bird – and this was one wonderful bird from Diemand Turkey Farm in Wendell, MA. I didn’t add any starch because I wanted to keep my options open since it was such a huge amount.
The soup was simmered for about an hour and then the canner came out. I had to can two rounds because the canner will only do 14 pints at a time. All in all I canned 24 pints. I do pints because many times it’s just one person (or two) opening a jar. If there are more people open more jars. It’s so satisfying to see the fruits of your labor sitting on the counter cooling. Then dream about the soup’s possibilities – turkey barley, turkey rice and I’m thinking dumplings would be a great winter meal.
The biggest treat is tasting this when Thanksgiving Day is a distant memory because this is really Thanksgiving Dinner in a jar – yum!
If Thanksgiving is all about family then Moonlight Magic (Madness) is all about friends. The day after has always been a day of fun and reconnecting for us with this event. My sister-in-law owns a wonderful little flower shop in the Falls called Plants for Pleasure. For years that’s where the family spent some time setting up the shop for the opening of the holiday season.
Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls is shut down to traffic for the evening with venders on the streets and all of the shops open for business. It seems as though hundreds of people go and many of them we have known most of our lives. It’s a festive occasion and we plan out our eating from year to year strategically. From barbecue to Hager’s fried dough with maple cream there are some spots not to be missed.
Many, many crafters have small shops in Shelburne Falls and this event also acts as an open house of sorts. From glass blowing to weaving to pottery artisans display their wares. It is amazing to me the artistry that is center right here in these small hilltowns.
There is also our visit to the Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley owned by friends of ours from high school. This is really the best place to bowl in my opinion. They have taken the history of this place to another level with the decor and information on the walls from years past. Their bar is fun and the bowling is an experience. This is always on our must do list.
This year the cousins, all adults now, will be descending on the town as well. They love to get together and don’t have as many opportunities as they once did. I’m sure we will run into them multiple times during the evening and all plan to end up in Rowe for a bonfire in the garden. I’m sure it will be cold enough.
This is the kickoff to the Christmas season for us. There is nothing like reconnecting to make things feel more festive. Then to retire to the outdoors in Rowe, looking at an amazing starry sky, sitting by a huge fire, drinking a warmed Grand Marnier surrounded by family is the icing on the cake.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has always been about family for us. My extended family is small and widespread but as a child the excitement would build over the weeks before the holiday arrived. Family gathered at Fort Pelham Farm for food and all of the festivities of the season. My aunts, uncles and grandparents on both sides would arrive one after another in the days before Thursday, our 3 cousins as well. There was laughter, food, more laughter. My mother loved this holiday and having her siblings with us.
We would rise early on Thanksgiving day to the smell of Bell’s Seasoning, onions and butter. My mother had risen at her usual ungodly hour and had everything well in hand. My aunt would always bring dates stuffed with walnuts and rolled in sugar. I remember there being a lot of nuts consumed on that day (the only other time we had them was at Christmas or when visiting my mother’s father). We would consume savory and sweet with the Macy’s parade in the background.
An hour or so before dinner was served everyone changed into their Sunday best. It was the one meal a year when we “dressed for dinner”. It seems a little odd to me now but I’m glad we did it.
It is all so long ago and far away now. Most of those players are gone but having had those gatherings every year of my childhood really instilled in me the importance of giving thanks for family and friends. I try to be thankful every day but this day focuses on it.
This year we are having the smallest gathering I can remember. It will be my two daughters, one boyfriend, Bill and I. It seems to be a pattern with many of our friends and family – I think for us it’s about being home. We have given up the long distance travelling. Not so much for getting there but the long ride home.
The bird is in the oven, I started my day with Bell’s Seasoning, onions and butter. There are vegetables to be cooked, gravy to be made. The sticky buns are ready to be warmed. Our meals are always the same, they have been for me for well over 50 years. I asked the girls what they absolutely had to have for dinner and am making everything we always have for 5 people. It wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving without the same things we have every year. There will just be a lot of leftovers – never a bad thing.
Today I am thankful that we have good, local food available to us – some grown right here. I am thankful I will be spending the weekend with 2 of my children who I see less than I’d like to. I’m thankful that we are in a huge old house with a cranking woodstove. I’m thankful for the quiet, the snow and the birds that are gracing my feeder.
I am most thankful for the people in my life. I’m thankful I have a new piece of my family returned. I’m so thankful (and miss terribly) the people that are now gone – they made me who I am and made my life richer.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends that read this blog regularly. Surround yourself with the people that are the most important to you, breathe it in, make it part of that collective memory that sustains you.