Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buried Treasure

I actually love it when I lose something. It usually leads to a cleaned out closet or finding something unexpected and satisfying.

I've started gathering papers in preparation for the annual IRS ritual of filing taxes. We sold some stuff and I need to find the papers from the purchase many years ago. I'm pretty organized these days, but back then - what with six kids and a full time job - I was anything but, so I began to search through the boxes in our storage closet. Of course, nothing is labeled and business and pleasure papers and memorabilia are all mixed in together.

Opening the first box I am confronted with old photos and a box of letters that I saved from my mother's house when she died some 15 years ago. Even knowing my papers weren't going to be in that box, I started flipping through the contents. I pulled out a picture of my best friend Pat Denver and me in our dorky Mariner Girl Scout uniforms posing on the 3 masted schooner that we guided around Cape Cod. With us were Gregory Peck and John Houston who were filming Moby Dick. It was quite an adventure for high school juniors. We had to earn the money for the trip and I did so by cleaning houses. I have hated housework ever since. The next picture was of our 22 year old grandson, fresh from the womb - I remember thinking, "what big ears!" He has now very handsomely grown into those ears.

I must have spent an hour on the pictures and moved on to the letters. Most of them were from my children to their grandmother, my mother. Our son wrote to tell her all his adventures at Georgia Tech and I learned a lot. The only time we ever heard from him while in college was when he was short of cash. I also found a letter from me, the college junior, to my sister describing my soon to be husband and wondering what my parents would think of him. They had not met him yet. Another letter from my sister to me bemoaning the fact that she was having to miss her high school party because of the date of my rehearsal dinner. I now can empathize with that sentiment, but at the time it was all about "me".

On to the next box. All papers - this time ones that I have written. From grammar school, the re-written version of Litte Women that my friends and I would perform in one or another of our basements. From high school there were the rules and regulations for the Chatham High School cheerleaders vis a vis behavior. I guess I was practicing for motherhood even then. Next came series of Odes that were typed and mimeographed and cut into index card size. The cards were all titled "An Ode To...followed by the following: Atlantic Ocean, Chatham,Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Wastebasket, Tasmania, Mt. Everest and the Florida Everglades". God knows what that was all about as my only experience with any of them was the wastebasket ..."always taking, never giving...", Chatham and the Atlantic Ocean. From college were two papers on which I had written "late because of illness", a bold faced lie. I don't ever remember being sick one day in college. One was written from the perspective of an 8 year old whose father is sent away to a mental institution and although I'd never witnessed any dementia or Alzheimer's back then, ir was a spot -on description of what I now know it to be. It couldn't have been based on my parents as they (and their siblings) had and still have all their marbles.

I know I kept all this stuff to create a memoir and memory books for my kids and maybe someday that will happen. Now on with the hunt. In the fourth box I found the records that I needed. By this time I had wasted so much of the day in the search and the trip down memory lane that I realized I didn't have anything to prepare for dinner. I started a search of the freezer, and hidden behind the vodka and the spumoni was a large bag of the unused pierogis that my daughters and granddaughters and I had made for Christmas Eve. Voila! Guess what we had for dinner? An unexpected treat.

Thank you IRS.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter Doldrums

Don't give in to the winter weather and stay hunkered down in your warm home. I tried it and it isn't healthy. Since we returned from a visit to Tucson on December 16th we have had only about 21 hours of sunshine. Day after day of fog and gloom drove me to actually complete the NY Times crossword puzzle on the day that I start it - my ongoing battle with Will Shortz' mind an all-consuming and frustrating daily exercise. I also spent inordinate amounts of time on FaceBook and surfing the web - talk about throwing precious time right down the toilet - that does it. I am proud to say I read a few good books. May I recommend Robert W. Walker's City for Ransom and Shadows in the White City. I may have been exercising my mind, but parts of my body were starting to atrophy. In addition, my jeans were getting harder to button.

Then I remembered where I live - in a wonderful city with lots of interesting places to go. So armed with my magical "old people ride free"Blago pass, I headed out into the gloom to escape hibernation. I jumped on the 151 and got off at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. I was not the only one seeking escape. The place was abuzz with locals, tourists and cheery volunteers. On various benches under trees and in alcoves people were reading, texting, gazing or napping. After my glasses de-fogged I wandered through the palms and ferns and tropical flowers that live off the micro particles in the air - they grow on other plants, but are not parasites. Although in the orchid family they are very different from my mental image of an orchid. I actually read about the carnivorous plants encased in glass on my way to the exit, where the fragrance of Jasmine filled the air. The Spring Flower Show starts on January 30th. I'll be back.

Enveloped in the earthy smelling warmth I decided to brave the cold. Instead of getting back on the bus I meandered through the zoo and made a few visits to keep me in the tropical mood. The seabirds in the penquin house cavorted in their manufactured beachside habitat and made me think of Oak Street or Rocky Point Island in Florida. Two students took meticulous notes as they observed the birds. Let's see " beaked seagull picks fight with grey tern....scratches and dives in the water....." and so on. Oh well - to each his own. As a bonus, I got to see the penguins being fed ever so lovingly by their keeper.

On to our fabulous flock of flamingoes (try saying that fast 3 times). To my surprise they were outside, preening their deep salmon feathers - a contrast to the fog and snow on the ground. Drat , I forgot my camera. They are beautiful and well trained. Their keeper came out of the glass habitat and walked to the edge of the pond wordlessly. One by one they turned, and in double file, marched, really marched, back into the habitat followed by their still silent keeper. Amazing.

There was no sign of the 4 legged creatures outdoors and I chose not to visit and be an enabler in their hiding from the weather. Besides, the lion house really smells with the heat on. I couldn't leave without checking the progress of the lagoon re-construction (they'd better hurry - there are way too many ducks in the swan pond). No visit is complete without a visit to the Farm in the Zoo. It was pretty empty of both animals and visitors - typical for winter. My favorites are the momma sow and her little piggies. None were there. Boo-hoo. By now I had walked around for about 50 minutes and felt energized. I headed back to the bus stop and grabbed the 151 again. This time I got off at Ohio and walked to Trader Joe's. That always makes me feel good. Everyone in there is happy - the employees and the shoppers - and the tropical shirts fit my theme for the day. Heading back home on the 157 I started planning my adventure for the next day, a big decision. I'll remember to bring my camera.

P.S. I needn't have worried about no piggies at the zoo. There were plenty on the bus.