Sunday, February 15, 2009

Memory Lane II

I'm irritable and melancholy tonight. A good ski usually helps, but I like to be the first out after a new snow and the trail was pretty well abused by dogs and sleds and runners by the time I got there after work. The endorphins only lasted as long as I was swiffing along. I'm gritting my teeth like mad these days.

Saturday we drove to Mom's for the day -- which we should do more often -- and went to breakfast at the finally-opened Moondance Diner. The food is fairly unremarkable diner food, breakfasts liberally punctuated by the canned cheese sauce that sometimes does it for me, sometimes not, but it's worth it to visit for the decor. The original exterior, complete with colorful graffiti, panels the wall below the chair rail inside, and there's chrome and checkered tile and vinyl enough to please anybody, I should think. Pictures to follow.

We went to the storage shed in our continuing efforts to purge all the stuff we've been moving from place to place and storing in freezing, dusty sheds since we left Kemmerer in '92. We got a plastic tote full of board games (including Mom's original '40's Scrabble game with the smoothly worn letters), two boxes of stuffed animals (including one containing several of Mom's, one of which, a silky skunk with a red felt tongue and heavy brass zippered pocket, is about 50 years old), boxes with my ivy teapot and a serving dish, and a box labeled "A's papers. Storage." I expected to find a lot of schoolwork and badly executed watercolors. I should have known better. There was a lot of junk; I have always been a hoarder but I'm happy to say that I'm getting much better about it. But there were also treasures I'm glad I kept.

There are a lot of photos of the girls and I in California: Toni and Kym and Twinkie and Hope and everybody else at Halloween parties, school dances, goofing off at the beach or the mall, piled on Mom's living room floor while the boys lay draped over the furniture, weary and bedraggled on the band bus, being teased by the boys. There are lots of school pictures of my friends (and people I'm not sure were my friends) and a photo of the nearly leafless lemon tree in our backyard, simply loaded with lemons that were as sour as the day is long.

Among folders of music and stacks of photos from a busy high school band career, I found all the souvenirs I brought back from a month spent in Europe -- of course on a band tour -- almost 15 years ago. There's a letter from Larry (wait 'til you read it, you'll die laughing, and maybe you can explain it to me) as we parted in D.C. after 30 days spent inseparable, gawking, learning, laughing. Starving. (I lost about 15 pounds in 30 days because of all the walking -- we walked everywhere -- and because I never got up early enough for the continental breakfasts and only ate things I recognized when I did make it to meals, which were usually vegetables and fruit and chicken. I was leery of the meat.)

I kept a few sticks of Orbit gum (before it was available in the U.S.), tickets to Broadway shows in London, ferry passes from Amsterdam, receipts for ice cream in Munich and Venice and chocolate and jewelry in Switzerland, a large notebook in which I rather obediently but very vaguely recorded each days' events (I left a lot out but I remember more as I read between the lines), sugar cubes, buttons, hotel door keys (three plastic punched cards and one big square brass key), stickers and notes, and the sobering brochure from the concentration camp at Dauchau, Germany, and a few dozen postcards of my own from Paris and Lugano, the Louvre and Luxembourg Gardens. I am not a scrapbooker, but I intend to put these things together somehow; I have a great photo album from the trip, too, thanks to Mom.

Also we found postcards, mostly from the 1930's and 1940's and mostly from Grandma's travels or from her sister Angela in California. A good 70% are unwritten on, views of the Chicago World's Fair in 1934, views of tidy, bursting orchards, views of the Golden Gate Bridge and redwoods, many views of historic sights in Wyoming towns that may or may not still be intact. There are a few dozen postcards from Kathleen to Grandma (can you believe I kept those, KathBert?) from the last twenty or so years, and many from Grandma to me from the few years after we moved to California and before she joined us there.

Then there are the letters, written to and by Gram, sent to me or to Morgan or Jane. Newsy bits about family and friends back here at home, newspaper clippings on MacGuyver and the Yellowstone wolves, both of which I was obsessed with in my early teens, obituaries, poems (many about Wyoming, where she lived almost her whole life), ads, recipes. Some of them go farther back, almost a century ago, poems from the 1930's, an index card covered with Grandma's loopy sprawl in green pencil: a recipe and instructions for homemade beer.

Scraps of vintage Valentines, a 1929 graduation announcement from Rock Springs High School (I assume it's Gram's; she was born in 1910), a small black book with a travel journal from June, July and August of 1939, up the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts to Victoria, B.C. for another World's Fair, and in the back there's a list of Important Events of 1940. "Olson School closed May 3rd. Silver Creek School started May 6th. Very smooth term. Three smart, hardworking people. Pupils. Mothers were very nice." "Correspondence with E.H. ended in June. He was married Dec. 2." "Aug.- Thelma began wearing a diamond." (I have a picture of Thelma sitting with Grandma a few days before she died. Thelma died a year or two later. I wonder if Bekah or Larry or Twinkie will visit me a few days before I die? Or do you only keep friends who live within 100 miles? Thank God for blogs and Facebook.)

The poems! Several of the Depression-era poems feel remarkably current:

1938. Santa Clause & Aren't We All

The New Deal has ruined my business
I've lost my reindeer and my sleigh
My factory's surrounded by pickets
All my men are on the P.W.A.

A couple of dollars I've salvaged
I've bought a donkey decrepit and slow
So this year when you see me at Christmas
I'll be on my ass in the snow.

Very Much Too Much

Too many highways, too many cars,
Too many people behind the bars,
Too many much poverty, too much wealth,
Too many people in ill health,
Too many much politics, too much booze,
Too many wearing high-heeled shoes,
Too many spending their dough on gas,
Too many much talking of Europe's sass,
Too many living beyond their means,
Too many buying canned corn and beans,
Too many poets, too much prose,
Too many many girls without underclothes,
Too much buying goods on time,
Too many people don't save a dime,
Too much ball, too much play,
Too many politicians on big pay,
Too many taxes, too much spent,
Too many many folks spend every cent,
Too much fun, too much ease,
Too many rips in my B.V.D.s,
Too much reform, too much law,
It's the darnedest thing you ever saw.

Now tell me, is that not just so 2008? I miss Gram desperately. I miss her taste for the witty and tongue-in-cheek and the way she was solemn until work was done. No whistling. But she muttered constantly under her breath, usually when she exhaled. No one else seems to remember this.

On the back of one fine, sentimental ode to Wyoming I won't share here, I found the headline: Seabiscuit Leaves for Eastern Turfs, SAN MATEO, Cal. -- (AP) Charles S. Howard's great stake star Sea...

and above that was the bottom of the previous column, a trivial story on sports:
...Saturday morning and will be in uniform when the Yankees meet the Washington Senators that afternoon.
Ruppert is relieved and triumphant. Not only because the jovial Colonel likes to see his Yankees win, but because he has won, hands down, one of the toughest holdout battles in recent major league history.
When, on January 21, DiMaggio refused to sign the contract for $25,000, the Colonel didn't like it.
"Not a cent more," said the Colonel.

And do you know, I'm only halfway through the box.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love looking through boxes of hidden treasures!! my grandpa reciently sent me a biography of part of his life. stuff i never knew about him. it was so great how close you were to your gram. in some way i think i am a little envious. i wish i had know one of my grandma that well. it is sad that she is gone, but at least you actually knew who she was. i missed my chance to really get to know my grandma.

and i'll come see you way before you die. if/when you move away, i'll be sad, but at least it'll give me an excuse to travel somewhere for visits!


February 17, 2009 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger A said...

Awww! YES, that's what I keep telling my family. Don't families enjoy each other on vacation time generally a lot more than if we have to see each other every day? ;)

February 18, 2009 at 12:37 PM  

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