dual personalities

Month: February, 2012

Such secret comforts

“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted : and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them ; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that he has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.”
–Daniel Defoe

89 years ago today…grave robbing on a grand scale

February 16th 1923 Howard Carter unsealed the tomb of Tutankhamen to discover a fantastic gold treasure. It was a great find, to be sure, but since then, poor king Tut has been subject to every indignity imaginable. I won’t go into the gory details. Suffice it to say that mishandling has cost Tut at least one important body part. Personally, I’m not in favor of grave robbing. But if it must be done, then I think the bodies should be respected.

I leave you with one of the more mundane objects from the tomb as reconstructed: Tut’s shoe.

Could start a trend, don’t you think?

Just saying

No way. It’s a cat. Well, everyone (still) loves a terrier.

Flyover thrills

Yesterday while perusing the wares at the Ivey-Selkirk Preview of the February Jackson Room auction, I spied this local celebrity:

Yes, early morning Fox news anchor John Pertzborn. It was Bow Tie Tuesday, so he was (uh huh) wearing a bow tie. He is taller than I thought.

Flyover thrills.

Low expectations

Valentine’s Day is big business. Flowers. Greeting cards. Balloons. It all seems so pre-packaged. I would much rather get flowers on any old Thursday just because. (Not that that has ever happened.)

Some Valentine’s Days have been better than others. The low point was definitely the year “the florist burned down”. Really. It burned down. It wasn’t a my-dog-ate-my-homework excuse, employed by a forgetful husband. It was on the news. Really. The florist burned down. On Valentine’s Day. Of course, you would be right to surmise that more than one florist exists in this large mid-western city.

As you can imagine, the memory of that particular day provides much merriment to my family members. Even when I have managed to forget, daughter #1 always reminds me. I can’t complain. She always sends a card.

Technical difficulties

We are experiencing technical difficulties back at the ranch, so (to my regret) there will be no “Embarrassing picture Monday” today. Hopefully, we will make up for this next Monday with a really embarrassing picture.

Dining room blues

I love a formal dining room, and in a house full of boys, I count on it for its civilizing effect. We have always eaten meals in the dining room, with china, napkins, and (when appropriate) candle light. Candles are not only romantic, but they hide a multitude of sins, including spills, culinary mistakes, and boyish lapses in manners. Sometimes dinner is the only time in a day we get to spend together as a family and (with the exception of the odd teenage or cranky parent moment) it is a blissful oasis of civility and good humor. We often have music on in the background and usually try to pick something suitably unobtrusive. When something more vigorous is in order, volume control is key. I’m an advocate of family dining and I know my dual personality is too. Dining rooms should be used!

Last summer, I painted our dining room blue and I’ve been meaning to upload pics since then but I was holding out for good ones. It’s quite a small room, but what I particularly like about it is the way the light plays on the walls, creating different hews throughout the day. I’ve tried taking photos at different times of day, from different angles, with and without the flash, and have so far been completely incapable of doing it justice. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the color is subtle and does not overpower the room at all. Despite its not being photogenic, I love my dining room — all it needs now is a red oriental rug (I’m looking) which I think would complement the walls better than the dark blue.

I love china and like to have out a mix of new (mostly Spode, thanks to my mother-in-law, Pam!) and family antiques. Another gift from my mother-in-law, the solid cherry, 1960s vintage Harden hutch we won at a local auction years ago. The table and chairs, also cherry, are 60s and 40s respectively. There’s a lot to be said for furniture of that vintage — although not antique, it’s much better made than anything you can find in furniture stores today. The (unmatched) Hitchcock style chair in the back right of the picture is from my grandmother Cameron’s house.

The corner shelves and Gothic chair are both from my father’s mother’s family, the Sargents (Or are the shelves from the Farm? Dual personality, do you remember?). In any case, I like the way they look together.

So here’s to the under-appreciated dining room and its civilizing role. Next time you sit down to a meal with loved ones, be sure to do it in pleasing surroundings. It’s good for the digestion and the future of civilization!

On the same page

Some of you know that I am a big fan of Reggie Darling. His is one of the first blogs I ever followed. We just seem to be on the same page. Cut from the same cloth. Kin, as Bob Dylan would say. Anyway, his latest post just blew me away. In it he reviewed the Super Bowl last Sunday, and the observations he made were exactly the ones I made while watching with my better half.

1. The football players should learn the words of the National Anthem (and if Reggie were the coach, they would be required to do so, or get off the team!)

2. The coaches were under-dressed. Good god, yes! Where is Tom Landry, thank you very much!

3. The game coverage was dull and choppy. Stop. Start. Sheesh.

4. Madonna rocked. I should say, however, that I would have more respect for her if she had worn some shoes/boots that were a tad more practical. I was worried that she would break a leg the whole time.

5. The ads were “clever-ish”.

Anyway, isn’t it nice in this crazy world we live in to find a kindred spirit once in a while? And thanks, Reggie, for the wonderful job you do.

What are you reading?

1. I just finished Tinkers by Paul Harding, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a short, beautiful first novel.

So few books like this are ever written, much less published. It is about an old man on his death-bed remembering his father, who in turn remembers his. A keeper!

2. Then Again by Diane Keaton–I am currently reading this memoir by actress Diane Keaton.

It is more about her relationship with her mother than a celebrity tell-all, and that is what attracted me to it. She is an unpretentious and intelligent person who was very close to her mother and wrote the book after her death to try to understand her better. “Comparing two women with big dreams who shared many of the same conflicts and also happened to be mother and daughter is partially a story of what’s lost in success contrasted with what’s gained in accepting an ordinary life.” Like me in my youth, Diane has frequently been classified as a “flakey chick”, but still waters run deep as they say.

3. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge–a juvenile novel I had heretofore missed. The cover of the newest edition is terrible, isn’t it?

An older one is much more appealing:

It is purportedly one of J.K. Rowling’s favorites and it is very popular in England. It was even made into a movie starring Ioan Gruffudd, but they changed a lot (playing up some vague romance angles) and angered the book’s fans. It was good and well written and I finished it, but it won’t be added to my shelf of classics.

4. Volume II of the Library of America collected writings of Raymond Chandler.

I periodically re-read his novels, which never disappoint. One can read these books every year, because the plot is forgotten as soon as the book is closed. It is old Philip Marlowe that lingers.

And the prayer book, so the Psalms are always at hand!

What are you reading?

Class of ’48

I think that one of the main reasons my mother chose to attend Middlebury College in Vermont was because it had its own mountain and ski area, the Middlebury Snow Bowl:

Middelbury has quite a skiing tradition. “Since the first trails were cut in 1934, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl has witnessed one of the richest skiing traditions in the country. From early snowshoe and obstacle races, Middlebury’s winter sports teams evolved into bona fide skiing powers, until the outbreak of World War II brought the program to a virtual halt.”

But after the war ended several skiers from the famed 10th Mountain Division “descended on the Bowl, along with a young fighter pilot from the Pacific theater…who coached the women’s team in 1946 and, thanks to the strength of the 10th Mountain Division recruits, led the Middlebury men in 1948 to their first of two consecutive national championship titles. In the same year Becky Fraser ’46, captain of the 1944 and 1945 women’s teams, became the first Middlebury skier to compete for the U.S. Olympic Team in the Winter Games at St. Moritz, Switzerland.”

What I did not realize is that my mother was a member of the Middlebury ski team for 4 years and skied with Ms. Fraser. She may not have been Olympic material, but she was there too. I knew she was on the Ski Patrol, but she’s there in the 1948 yearbook: “SKIING With veteran skiers Polly Hodder, Peg Curtis and Nat Benson ably assisted by the skills of Rose Hull, Pete Salmon, Mary Cameron, Lee Robbins, Jean Smith and Bobbie Merriman, the women’s ski team showed promise of a good season this winter. The team traveled with Coach “Joe” Jones to numerous intercollegiate competitions.”

I knew that she was very active in the Mountain Club, but had forgotten that she was on the governing board, Skyline. She was also the Vice President of her junior class. Here she is in the front row (left).

She really did love Middlebury and her 4 years there. Despite a disastrous sorority rush freshman year, she gave college her all. Here is a page from her junior yearbook which she illustrated:

She designed the Middlebury Winter Carnival posters for several years and also did the posters for all the big theater productions–back in the day before colored markers (and computers), when everything was painted by hand. And she managed to earn good enough grades to get into graduate school at McGill University.

For many years as a child I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and go to Middlebury. I even had a dream once (in the 5th grade!) that I gave Steve McQueen a tour of the college. It was a big presence in the back of my brain. In the 6th grade, for some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted to go to Smith and I held on tight to that idea. I’m not sure why.