Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvest memories

This post was something I wrote recently, then submitted to a little weekly newspaper per my father's urging (this particular weekly is published in my childhood hometown). I sent it in with some other samples (because that's what the editor had requested in the printed paper) and then I heard nothing. I finally followed up with an email a couple of weeks later, inquiring whether she'd received my submissions. She replied tartly that she had, in deed, responded and if I hadn't heard back I should check my junk email. She also informed me that she only accepted pieces that had to do with Greene County. (Ummmm... I thought this did? Directly???) I checked my spam/junk folder. Nothing there. I responded to her note, informing her I'd found no communication from her anywhere in my email, and also pointing out that one of my submissions, in fact, described a Greene County event. Her last note confirmed that she had received my stuff, read it, and replied to me, even if I didn't receive it. Her last sentence was a curt, "I think I will pass." Ouch. Am I being overly sensitive, or does that sting just a tad?

I must have been in need of a knocking down. I guess it'll make me stronger, right? ; )

It's fine. I just wish she would have shared her reasoning instead of being so short. "I have an abundant supply of better work," or "Not my style," or simply "You stink." Anything to give me some indication of why I was refused. Because that's the part that gets me: not the refusal, but the fact that her response about only accepting local themes indicates she may not have even read my work. And that makes me crazy. I don't care whether I'm liked, but by golly, I want to be accurately represented.

Regardless, here is the piece for you fine people. You don't have the ability to veto my writing, only to click elsewhere. Enjoy!!! Or, click elsewhere! Up to you!


Throughout my growing-up years and well beyond, my mother and father instilled a distinct sense and appreciation of history in my sisters and me. Family vacations often took us to places of historical significance, such as Gettysburg and Williamsburg. We were expected to know about America's important, tide-turning dates, events, and names. (I am more aware of Pearl Harbor Day than my own birthday most years.) Knowing where you came from, to my parents, was and is crucial to shaping who you become.

In light of my parents’ respect for the past, I guess it's no big surprise that the Greene County Historical Museum's Harvest Festival was an annual occasion for my family.

We'd watch for announcements about the dates, mark them, and then decide which day to go. Many times, various members of my family were in attendance on both Saturday and Sunday. I can still remember the excitement I'd feel as we came upon the museum grounds, with hundreds of cars parked along surrounding routes and in nearby fields. The timing was nearly always perfect, in that the autumnal weekend of the festival coincided with what we call "sweater weather"—those autumn days when one dons a sweater, jeans, and some sturdy shoes that can handle a slippery hillside. The sun often shone brightly, and I recall that most years, the sky was an unbelievably rich shade of blue. Leaves swirled in breezes, and those same breezes brought wonderful scents to your nose: homemade bread and cornbread, pork, candied apples, fruity pies, real popcorn, and apple butter and cider.

The noise level at the festival was always deafening, because set up right inside the entrance was a bevy of ancient machines blasting and popping out a strange, steam-powered rhythm. I had to cover my ears as we passed, and my father (who knows everyone) always saw people he wanted to chat with who happened to be standing right beside the machines. A shouted conversation would ensue, and then finally we could move forward and wander through the craft stands, the various old-time displays, and the crowds of soldiers. (Since there are war reenactments every year, you were bound to rub shoulders with both soldiers and American Indians. It caught me off guard only once, in middle school, to see my history teachers cleaning muzzle-loaders in traditional outfits.) A few times, I knew some of the crafters; my aunt and her friend sold intricate baskets they'd made, a potter we recognized displayed lovely glazed pots to buy, and there were rugs and afghans and wood crafts and so many other things I can't even recall anymore.

The inside of the museum was unchanged most years, with a huge number of rooms that seemed to be frozen in time. Lacy old clothing lay on even older beds; the rooms held chamber pots both large and small, pretty wash pitchers and basins, oddities like framed pictures made from twisted pieces of hair... It was as if we've stepped into another world. I loved the children's room best, with weathered but still beautiful toys and a doll's crib. My favorite thing in the whole building was a miniature model of an old homestead, complete with tiny people and a dog, minute vegetables, even miniature rocking chairs on an old front porch. It was enclosed in a big glass case, and I could have stared into that small home and its many accoutrements for hours.

And there was always music. We couldn't leave without lingering near the hammered dulcimer player and listening to the strains of old folk songs. If a sound could capture the free, windblown spirit of the Appalachians, my vote would be for that dulcimer. The old fellow who played it would move easily from piece to piece, delighted as a crowd gathered. The music drifted out through the ever-opening-and-closing front door of the museum, drawing more people into the already crowded rooms. It was hard to leave those beautiful, haunting melodies.

Heading for the basement of the museum made it easier to leave the music, because the lower level of the structure was where a lot of the food could be found. Big steps led you into the cellar, where many wonderful people plied you with amazing goods. (They did expect you to pay, but you always got more than your money's worth.) My personal favorite, apple butter on homemade bread, was usually to be found closer to the entrance of the festival instead of the basement, which worked out fine with me; if I’d already had that treat when I first arrived, then I'd be ready for the other goodies by the time I made my way to the rest of the foods later.

The smells of dry leaves and fine foods, the sounds of voices and folk songs and reenacted gunshots, the dappled sun shining down on a lovely brick mansion that had stood solidly for over a century—all of those wonders were a yearly joy that marked the presence of fall just as surely as the first genuinely chilly high school football game.

I returned to the festival last year with my little boy, and it's as fun as ever. I am always so delighted when a childhood memory lives up to itself in adulthood. I wish the same for you—and enjoy the lovely fall days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mental gristle

Not a pretty picture, that subject line. Yet, that is what I feel I can offer to you today: Some thick, tough matters to chew on in your mind.

In a surprisingly helpful, public-minded move, Google's home page today is featuring a link to a voter registration URL. Are you currently registered? Are you certain? The deadline is coming up in the next week or two. If you've moved recently and have not yet updated your driver's license, then you are not registered in your new location—thus rendering you unable to cast a vote. Now, if you'd moved here illegally from across the border? That probably wouldn't be a problem...

On Saturday, I took my son to get his hair cut. He sat very still and looked so cute afterward that I treated him to a bagel at Panera. We sat at a table, inhaling the wonderful aromas, enjoying our buttery, bread-y delight, and we couldn't help noticing the older gentleman next to us. His posture was amazingly upright. When we we leaving, we stopped to tell him that we'd been admiring his posture. The fellow explained that he'd spent time in the military, and good posture had been ingrained in him then. The kind, obviously blind fellow then informed me that he admired my beauty. (No, I'm not kidding.) I burst out laughing, and reminded the poor guy that there were many more beautiful sights all around him; the restaurant was practically crawling with lovely young things. We walked out the door, and I experienced a revelation: Every charming old, white-haired man you see was potentially a girl-crazy, inappropriate pervert. I'll never know what those elegant elders were like when they were young, unrestrained upstarts.

It gives you pause, doesn't it?

We made yet another purchase from craigslist recently—a loft bed for my son's tiny bedroom. (I keep trying to make space in my life where there truly is none.) But my one-ness with craigslist and all things scrounged and secondhand often makes me think that my epitaph should read, "She knew how to make do." Perhaps it will. I could put that in my will.

Which, by the way, needs to be updated. One of the witnesses to our will died a few years ago, and although my lawyer friend says it will hold water anyway, I feel funny about it. Plus, it needs to be notarized to be really tight; we didn't do that because in Pennsylvania, technically the notarization isn't necessary. But.

Even if we don't touch the will, my husband and I both need to appoint each other as Power of Attorney. Did you know that isn't an automatic thing? This is important stuff, people. Do you have your affairs in order? I won't even go into the whole living will, although that's strongly recommended as well.

Better to address these things, right now, than to risk the fraught-with-disaster alternative—someone else addressing them when you're either gone from this earth or not able to do so for yourself.

See what I mean? Mental gristle. I wasn't kidding.

NOTE: I just noticed this is post #400. Wow! Hurray for me!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flag Abuse

Speaking of the flag, here's an abuse of the American flag, plain and simple.
flag abuse

People, I try to keep politics at a minimum here on Melmoirs. I do. But honestly, at this point, I'd have to find out something unspeakable about Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan to make me vote for anyone else.

I urge all of us to open our eyes. Understand the bloated and unfounded ego, the unhealthy agenda. Please try to grasp the threat to America that is clearly evident in one man's utter disrespect for what made this country great.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The American flag.

You should display it somewhere.

Especially today. September 11. Do you remember?

Yesterday, I reminded my husband and son that this anniversary was upon us once again. My son said, "Yeah, I know, we talked about that at school." We quizzed him: did he really understand? "Yes," he said. "Our teacher said it was the day when there was a, um, an accident and people were hurt—"

My husband and I immediately jumped in. "Honey, we've talked about this. It was no accident. It was deliberate," I said.

"Yes," added my hubby. "It was an act of war."

"I know," said my son. "The people flew the planes. They flew them into the buildings."

We revisited that awful day in our minds, Todd and I. We re-explained to our son why one of the planes had landed in a field in Pennsylvania. We re-lived it, for a moment. The shock, the feelings, the dread that grew in my chest that day and will dwell there forever.

I will not forget. I will not let anyone misrepresent this day, not to me or my son or anyone. Listen to the roll call. All those names, all those lives. The ripples continue; the water's surface is not smooth.

The war goes on.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fuzzy curiosity

I finished a painting yesterday, working from a photo we had taken when we visited an alpaca farm last year. I had been wanting to tackle this one for awhile, and finally got to it—such fun. The best part was that the weather cooperated during the painting sessions, so that I was able to work "plein air" all three times I painted.

It's for sale in my Etsy shop.

Our baseball game for this morning was just cancelled a few minutes ago; rain, and more rain expected. Oh, well. Guess we'll whip up some pancakes with our unexpected calm morning at home. If you needed rain, I hope you got some. Enjoy the weekend!