Monday Morning, Patriot's Day (Observed) 2019

1) Remember all those great Don’t Panic T-shirts from the 1990s? Remember the one that said “Next Mood Swing in 6 Minutes”? That’s my weekend! So excited yesterday finally to publish Etiquetteer’s review of Lizzie Post’s Higher Etiquette, then absolutely sunk observing that it didn’t get much internet exposure (and for other reasons). And now, back to feeling good after seeing that the author liked my tweet of the review. It’s a roller coaster over here!

2) Also reflected in this morning’s soundtrack, from Kellee Patterson’s “If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It” to Richard Tauber in Heart’s Delight singing Schumann.

3) During this morning’s devotional I looked out at the pelting rain and thought both of how tough it would be for everyone running (and viewing) the marathon, and also for the health and welfare of the just-blossomed star magnolia in front of the house. And now, a few hours later, the sun is out. Next mood swing in 6 minutes!

Friday Evening, April 12

1) I will not deny that the last two days haven’t been the easiest. Yesterday a colleague very kindly expressed the wish that I had time right now for a long vacation to sort things out for myself. “I wish I had time for that, too,” I replied, “but it simply isn’t there with Reunions less then two months away.”

2) Scrolling through ye Fycebykke tonight, how very depressing to see how much an angry, vindictive celebration of stupidity and ignorance has taken hold of America. I can’t even fathom it.

3) Going back to the very beginning of my life, there was Sheherezade. Mother remembered that as a toddler I would stop whatever I was doing to listen to the violin solos (which represent Sheherezade telling her tales of the 1,001 nights to Shahriar). Since then, like most other people, I am most enamored of the first movement, “The Sea,” and its majestic, undulating rhythms.

3a) And I don’t suppose it’s a coincidence that I got so interested in the Ballets Russes back in college, because the hit sensation of their first season in Paris was Sheherezade starring Nijinsky and Karsavina, choreographed by Fokine and with sets and costumes by the revolutionary Bakst.

Wednesday Morning, April 10

1) The funnest thing I’ve done in awhile is pick up a copy of the new etiquette book about marijuana, Higher Etiquette, and post an Etiquetteer photo about it last night. The reactions have been encouraging, and I am really looking forward to reviewing the book this weekend. There hasn’t been a lot of time or space for Etiquetteer this winter, so this really makes me happy.

2) Planning and speculating fill my head - that and the gray cotton wool of sleepiness, which obscures everything.

3) Mother always remembered four-year-old me saying to the Community Concert ladies “I have to do my income tax!” in that serious way that children have. Fifty-something years later, I still do.

Sunday Evening, April 7

1) Doyle’s Road Race today, the first one in quite a few years on which I didn’t hold an open house. Just didn’t have it in me, but when I heard the motorcycle sirens go off, I ran out immediately to see the first runners pass by. As they often do, the Boston Gaelic Column - that’s the bagpipers associated with the police department - set up right across the street from Maison Robaire. They were wonderful, as always, honking away for about 20 minutes.

2) I had to run errands on ye Cyntre Strytte, including the hardware store for a large can of custom-tinted primer, exterior wood filler, and paintable caulk. The third floor has undertaken some serious labor on our exterior in preparation for their open house soon. I admire his energy, and freely acknowledge that I’d just hire a conrtractor.

3) This evening, prosecco in hand, I feel a bit like Lily Bart waiting in the drawing room for that lawyer to call.

BONUS: I don’t care what anyone says, “Beautiful Girls” from Follies is the greatest song Sondheim has ever written. Period.

Thursday Midday, April 4

1) Back in the 1980s I read both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged for my father, and I hope I never have to read them again. I say this in spite of Ayn Rand’s beautiful descriptive prose, which is often swamped by her dogma*. This morning, reading this article about Guns Down America grading American banks on their dealings with the gun industry reminded me of the lesson of Ellsworth Toohy in the former novel. He advised whichever young architect it was who wasn’t Howard Roark just to get out there and create one’s own structure. About one third through the novel this little nothing architectural group started making statements about issues in the public eye. By the end of the novel that little upstart group was the dominant force in the industry. And that’s just what Guns Down America is doing.

2) The horoscope indicated that this is a day for diplomacy, and it certainly is.

3) Remembering my first trip to Versailles in 2008: my initial disappointment seeing the front of the palace clogged with tour buses and scaffolding, the special exhibition of Jeff Koons sculptures all over the place, the crowds, the beauty, lunch in the old boathouse, bicycling around the canal. How can that have been ten years ago?!

*Her opening of The Fountainhead describing naked Howard Roark diving from a rocky cliff and swimming across a lake . . . I don’t remember the words, but I remember the impact they had on a closeted twentysomething. Twwwwaaaaaannnnnnngggg!

Thursday Morning, April 4

1) Yesterday my wonderful sister supervised the move-out of my things from our parents’ home; their journey to Boston has begun, and I had better be ready!

1a) How fortunate that I’m now able to give away furniture that has been given to me over the last 35 years. The cedar chest from a redecorating tenant at ye Vyndyme in college, the pine nightstand someone left behind in the foyer on Beacon Street, the beautiful cherry coffee table from ye Hyrtwood from a redecorating friend - these and my pine bookcases are all being received gladly by my upstairs neighbors, who are themselves moving.

2) Yoga last night at the home of friends. I really needed that.

3) They taught me that if you open the Bible at the middle it’ll automatically come to Psalms. Surprise! Mother’s Lamsa Bible opens to Job 17, and how’s this for a morning wakeup call, verse 4: “For thou hast hid their heart from understanding; therefore they shall exalt themselves in their deception.”

Tuesday Evening, April 2

1) I must direct you all to read my dear friend Paul Fallon’s blog post “First Kiss Girl/First Kiss Boy.” It’s just wonderful.

2) To be honest, I have just had it. Really, all I want to do is sleep. But, in the words of the late Boris Lermontov, “That great pleasure must be denied me.”

3) ONE reason I’ve just had it is (surprise!) my beautiful new yPhone. Today I actually dropped it (the new middle-class nightmare) and permanently nicked the leather cover! Since then, the blasted thing will give off ringtones and alert tones no matter how many times I mute it. And I want a silent phone. I’m damned if it’ll be my phone going off during a meeting or a concert or something . . .argh!

Morning, April Fools Day, 2019 - Words

1) The word that came out of my dream last night was concatenation: “a group of things linked together or occurring together in a way that produces a particular result or effect.”

2) Reading the NYT on an early bus this morning, I was delighted to read about the name of the new imperial era in Japan, “reiwa,” It is “a term with multiple meanings, including ‘order and peace,’ ‘auspicious harmony’ and ‘joyful harmony,’ according to scholars quoted in the local news media.” The Japanese are all excited about it. Imagine if we Americans could get as excited about something poetic.

3) One of the word games I play with myself every once in awhile involves finding substitute verbs for “to be” and “to have.” ‘Cause let’s face it, “am,” “is,” and “have” are three of the most overused words we use.

Return to Lake Charles, Day Five: The Last Night

1) Tonight is my last night in the home of my parents. The place feels adrift with furniture out of place, things scattered on the floor, uncertainty in the air.

2) But at this point I'm so weary I will just have to be comfortable with missing something.

3) After next week (or whenever my own things are shipped out), nothing that remains here will be special any longer. They will be items without history for strangers to make their own.

4) Everything is packed as well as I can pack it - and if that isn't good enough for the movers, then I had better be prepared for heartbreak. Visions of smashed crystal and broken furniture dance in my head.

5) Should have been blogging yesterday and today, but so very much to do, so many people to see and talk to, and so much trash to take out . . . my head didn’t have the space.

6) Tomorrow morning we have to put out the trash, go out to breakfast, finish my packing, visit the cemetery one last time, and then go to the airport.

7) And then I begin the third phase of my life. The first phase ended when I completed my education and joined the workforce full time. The second phase ended now. What will the last third of my life be like? What will I make of it?

Return to Lake Charles, Day Two

Foreword: Before I begin, it must be generally understood that Mother saved everything. And while I have always encouraged that, this experience is already challenging my beliefs and making me realize how much attention my things will receive after my death.

1) Laura had a very long day yesterday, and I had a night of no sleep. I decided to get the day going about 5:30 AM - very much like Mamma, actually. She told me once she just didn’t see the point in lying around in bed if you were awake.

2) Chicory coffee and devotional in the living room. I am keeping Mother’s Bible, now bound with wide bands of clear tape and full of her pencilled marginalia. Rather than use bibliomancy, I went to a page that had been bookmarked: Proverbs 9. And verse 13 stood out to me in a way that it would not have stood out to Mother: “He who denies things falsely feeds on winds and pursues fowl of the air; for he has forsaken the way to his vineyard and the paths of his labor, to journey in the wilderness wihtout water; in the places that are trodden he travels thirsty and gains nothing.”

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3) I turned to the first page, and was surprised to see an autograph: “With God’s richest blessing. Geo. M. Lamsa Aug 1971.” My goodness, it’s the Lamsa Bible! Then August, 1971, must have been the first of our weeklong summer retreats at Unity, when I remember well that we heard George Lamsa speak and heard about his life story. I spent the rest of devotional researching ye Intyrnytte for more information about him and this controversial translation.

3a) You know the entire trip is going to be like this. An object, most likely a familiar one, will reveal something unexpected that will start a chain of memories.

4) And in fact, the entire morning was like that. Laura and I decided to start with the guest room closet. What remained inside was mostly boxes from Gramma and Uncle Bill’s house, but what came to us first was all Mother’s boxes of vacation materials. My goodness! We threw away SO many tourist brochures from all over the world, from Hawaii to Copenhagen. Postcards were saved for a friend of Laura’s. Laura kept most of the photos. Coins (Mother loved to bring back examples of local currency) were collected together.

4a) Mother saved everything, including posters from my unhappy campaigns for student council in junior high school. Laura said she found them in the attic, and one has to wonder why Mother would have brought them over here from Orchid Street. I certainly didn’t ask her to preserve them.

5) My brother-in-law showed up earlier than expected with a piece of furniture that’s coming to Boston, and he joined us for a time before getting active with lawn care. I had a bottle of top-notch bourbon for him as a thank-you gift.

6) Back in the guest room, I had two “Oh my GOD!” moments (I no longer remember in what order). In one box I found a long necktie box with a small ring box inside, and I knew instantly that these were the boxes that Daddy has used to surprise Mother with an egagement ring Christmas Eve, 1954 - and thereby announce their engagement to his family.

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7) At the top of the closet I saw a large box marked FRAGILE and I was pretty sure what it was. And I was right: it was my Mad Hatter hat that Mother made for me out of papier maché - her greatest achievement! But ALSO in the box was something I thought had been lost forever: a Mexican tin shrine to hang on the wall that I had been given in the late 1970s from cousin Delphine’s things.

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7a) Even better than those things, a small white jewelry box yielded a cherished memento I thought, too, was lost forever. Along with my wisdom teeth and a glass suncatcher rested a green-tinted ivory snuff bottle. That little bottle was given to me by Miss Emma, a very elderly lady to whom I was very devoted in my early teens. Miss Emma, the strongest pillar of cultural Lake Charles and a friend and neighbor of Gramma, she gave me that little bottle the day she moved to the nursing home in Texas. I was the only one who came to say goodbye when they drove off in the ambulance, and I remember flopping down in a big armchair and crying the rest of the morning. And now this memento is restored to me.

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8) We found a WWI photo of Grampa Dimmick neither of us had seen before. No wonder Granny knew she’d marry him as soon as she saw him walking up the walk at the home of whoever it was she was visiting in Opelousas.

9) Laura and I broke for lunch at Big Daddy’s - the Doyle’s of Holly Hill - and I am here to report that they didnt have club soda or ginger ale because, as the waitress said, “We aren’t that fancy.” But they fed me some good gumbo! Thank goodness I didn’t order an Aperol spritz . . . :-)

10) After dropping off about six boxes of books in a couple places, we divided to conquer for the afternoon. Laura wrapped up crystal, and I started boxing up papers from the morning search that will come to Boston with me. So many wonderful photographs, and so much else! The engraving plates from their wedding invitation, their high school graduation invitation and programs, a lot and a lot.

10a) I know you are all saying “Robert, just torch it all!” And you know I just cannot do that, but I am not taking everything, and I am proud of the amount of stuff that is getting tossed out.

10b) But OH . . . there is so much. I have almost every one of Mother’s date books from 2014 back to at least 1971, and probably longer. These aren’t just her appointments, but a guide to what everyone in the family, friends, and church was up to, including obituary clippings, wedding announcements, and sometimes recipes. What am I going to do? If there was a Museum of the Middle Class, these would be the cornerstone documents.

11) Tony expressed interest in early dinner, and we headed off to a new place, Rikenjames, on Ryan Street, that was quite good. We were obviously beating the Friday rush! Beer and catfish for Tony, beer and steak for me.

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12) I was dropped back at home while Laura and Tony went to meet local friends. And I was able to discover a box of Mother’s college things. This included not only her diploma and three of four athletic association passes, but also a small box of everything related to Rush her freshman year - including cocktail napkins from the various functions! At last, proof that Mother’s lifelong love of napkins and making sure everyone had one began before marriage! :-) But even more fun, she’d saved all the nametags.

13) I’m gonna have to pick up my pace tomorrow, which will also include seeing Mother’s friends.