Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bob said that Ruth is getting rid of a Hammond organ. It came with the house, sits in the diningroom. They are old, these neighbors of mine. They're members of the greatest generation, those who fought in world war two and those who waited faithfully at home.

Ruth's husband is coming home from the hospital. A bed is set up for him in the diningroom. There is no room for the Hammond organ. It must go. Bob tells me this in breakfast conversation. I bite my tongue to keep from saying, "can I have it?".

Bob says that Ruth has offered it to her daughter. If daughter doesn't want it, it will go to the other daughter. I smile, just listening. I always wanted a Hammond. I took piano lessons as a child. In high school, a neighbor's son studied organ. He had a full size Hammond organ in his parent's house. I had an out of tune piano. Since I was working my way through high school, I had some money for organ lessons. Found a teacher. Took lessons. Paid for them myself. Practiced on the organ in the auditorium at school.

This led to giving organ lessons while studying to be a teacher. I worked my way through college teaching music. As a young married, I was an organist choir director at local churches. I was OK. It doesn't pay well. Wish I had the time to be single minded about music, focusing on it entirely, getting really good. Didn't happen. My ear got better than my playing technique. I could tell when my fingers missed the timing. Too busy with other things to get really really good at playing. At one point, I made it into the Organists Guild, though.

Never had an organ in my house. All this flashes quickly in memory as Bob and I eat breakfast.
A week later, Bob calls. Neither daughter learned to play. They don't want the organ. Would I want a Hammond organ? Do birds fly?

Today, Bob and I went to Ruth's house to measure the organ. Yes it will fit in my diningroom. Back home, I call the piano mover. They will deliver the organ next week.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two thoughts for today The first one was a glorious impression before rising to start the day. I live in Connecticut. Winter means snow and overcast skies. .

October starts with a blaze of color. As the month progresses, the beautiful fall foliage color fades to tan. Then the leaves fall off the trees. By the first of November, a large cloud cover blocks the sun. The trees are bare branches. The air is chilly. I don't get to see the sun for six months. Sometimes there are sunny days in winter, but not too many.

I hate to see the fall color fade. A low grade depression comes upon me as the cloud cover blocks the sun. Then comes the morning after the first snowfall. I wake in my bedroom, full of light. The snow covers the ground, reflecting light into my room. I have flashbacks to being a little girl, awakening to the same sensual event....snow light.

There is peace in remembering being little, waking in my bed and seeing the all white world out side my window. Mom and Dad are in the house and all is right with the world. I remember the room, the Priscilla curtains that my mother had hung, the smells of breakfast, the creak and groan of the furnace, sounds of people moving about, starting their day. For a moment, I don't have to get up. The little girl that was and the adult that is, doesn't have to do anything but enjoy being warm in bed and feeling cozy.

The second impression is of letting something precious go. There is a stage of life where I have watched those older than me, die. Parents, aunts and uncles, the neighbors, favorite teachers.
Even movie stars of my generation are dying. They don't know who I am, but the movies were important to me . Those personalities on the screen played a big part of my life. I knew the actors and actresses, as if they were my neighbors. Their adventures on the screen were my escape. When they die, they leave a big hole in my life ,the same as in the lives of all of their other fans. Not only in the movies, but personalities in the news die. Katheryn Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly.....wonderful models of successful womenkind. As they leave the earth, a page turns. We're on a new page, unfamiliar. There is no alternative but to cope with the new,...stepping into unknown territory.

I am living in a strange world....this "today". I don't relate to the music on the radio. I don't want the latest electronic gadgets. Buses and mailboxes are disappearing along with the front porch that used to be on every house in my neighborhood. Hair styles and fashions are messy. There are no sidewalks next to the road...and what happened to neighborhood schools? Home cooked meals? Where are all the kids I went to school with?

My neighbor, age 86, has called me. His truck won't start and He has errends to do. Will I drive him? Of course I will. We arrange to eat breakfast together at Maxine's...the local diner. A. comes too. My neighbor is in decline. He loses breath easily. If I don't raise my voice to speak to him, he answers, "what? What?". He loses his balance when walking and walks too slow for me. F. joins us at the diner. F. is also in his 80s. The four of us talk. Mostly the two older men talk about what the town was like before I got here. The fields are gone...taken over by a housing development. Where there was a seed company, is now a mall. There used to be a lot of blue crabs in the bay. Now there are only a few. Same thing for lobster. You can still catch bass, but better not eat a lot of them because of mercury poisoning.

My neighbor has lost over 30 pounds this year. His face is wrinkled. His hair is thin. He is frustrated that He can't fix his truck. He used to be able to fix anything mechanical. Is it the new engineering? He complains about being constantly cold. In the car, I make a point of turning up the heater. There are projects all over my neighbor's house. He states He would like to complete this one and that one. Defeated man, the projects sit and collect in his house. We both know He will never finish them.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas One can't live without collecting a lot of memories . I see my past and compare it to my present. How the world has changed. How the celebration of Christmas has changed. How I have changed.

I used to be an organist - choir director when my children were little. Richard and I taught Sunday School. He was a deacon in our church. I remember a Christmas Eve service. I ended the service by having the choir stand at the back of the church. All the lights were turned out except the Christmas tree and lights at the altar. The choir sang Silent Night Holy Night. It was so beautiful and peaceful.

When I was a child and believed in Santa Claus, there was not a sign of Christmas on Christmas Eve. No presents. No tree. Nothing. My sister and I would go to bed, so excited We could not sleep. Our parents locked the door that separated the bedrooms from the public spaces. There was no way We could spy. When We got up on Christmas day, there was Christmas! It had appeared overnight. Stockings full. Christmas tree decorated! Our tree was always a real tree.

In memory, I can still smell the pine needles. Presents under the tree! My Dad's train running in a circle under the tree...and traditional special ornaments on the tree. My sister and I looked at the ornaments until We found the chicken and the ghost ornaments, but that is another story. There was tinsel on the tree...not the mylar stuff. Ours was made of aluminum foil. If it fell on the train tracks, it would short out the train. The only time the train was set up, was from Christmas day until New Year's day. In memory, I can still hear the sound of the train.

The night before ,We had made cookies. A plate was set out for Santa along with a glass of milk. In the morning, the snack was gone. Proof positive that Santa was real and had come down our chimney. Christmas music played from the radio. I had memorized the poem,"Night Before Christmas". I can recite it today, if you ask me to.

First thing was the stockings. No, We did not have the kind of Christmas stockings you can buy in the store. We hung up stockings We wore all year around. Who had the biggest feet and the biggest stockings? My Dad, of course. So, all of the stockings hung from the mantle (fake fireplace) were my Dad's. We used nails to attach them to the mantle. So my Dad had four socks with holes at the top from the nails.

The stockings were filled with oranges and life savers. It might contain a box of crayons, gum, a paddle ball. It contained walnuts, a whistle. We made a mess all over the livingroom rug of orange peels and bits of walnut shells. No one bothered to make breakfast on Christmas morning. Breakfast is candy ribbon and oranges. I am half sick from eating all that sugar, but it is Christmas so who cares. At the very bottom , in the toe of the sock, is a piece of coal. You have to be good, or Santa will bring only coal, no presents. When My girls were little, I told them they had to be good, or Santa won't bring presents. He will fill their stockings with coal. My youngest one said, "What's coal?"

Richard and I got such a kick out of this. We had to walk a railroad track to find a few pieces of coal that fell off the coal car. No one heats their house with coal any more. We put a piece in each daughter's stocking. B. was so intrigues with it, she saved it as a treasure.

I see my parents faces as they watch us open everything. We rip into our presents. The paper and ribbon litter the floor. When all is opened, my mother gathers the trash and throws it away.

I see my daughter's faces as they open their presents, an experiences that doesn't change, even if the gifts change over time. I gather the wrappings and throw them away.

During world war 2, metal was diverted to the war effort. My gifts were made of cardboard or wood with a silkscreen image on it. I loved my cardboard doll's highchair. I loved my baby doll and her clothes. When I laid her down, she would close her eyes. I had a stuffed bear...a panda bear, jacks, roller skates, a sled, balls, a top...but not all in the same year. I had a play kitchen with china dishes and board games. Richard reports He got an erector set and I remember tinker toys and Lincoln Logs...good building experiences for children. Not one of my toys required batteries or an electrical outlet.

The entire day, in fact the entire Christmas vacation was spent playing with my new toys. We went outside and made a snow fort, or sledded . We built a big hill of snow and poured water over it to freeze it slick. Then We used our sled on our hill. That kept the entire neighborhood busy for the entire vacation.

Dad was busy stoking the coal furnace, gravity feed hot air upstairs. He would take ashes from the furnace and sprinkle them on the sidewalk so passers by would not slip. I wish I had ashes for my icy walktoday...not the chemical stuff.

I remeber one Christmas Eve, my sister and I just could not go to sleep. We were jumping on our beds. My parents came in several times to tell us to go to sleep. (After all, they had all the work ahead of them to set up Christmas for us after We fell asleep.) Finally a monster man stuck his head in our door and looked at us. We were shocked into silence. Our eyes went big as saucers. We were cowed into settling down. Years later, my Dad admits that it was He in the mask. The mask was a Santa Claus mask, but it couldn't have been a very good one, because it scared us .
Chapter two on the entertainment center: I know that Spence and Doug can't move it. They are not professional movers. Surely I can't move it either. I have to call the professional movers because they have straps, blankets and handcarts to move large pieces of furniture. Every one of them does not return my call after I leave a message on their answering machines. They want a big job...a whole house to move. Finally one of them says they have a break in their schedule. They will move my entertainment center, but only for cash. ...a lot of cash...just about the same amount I paid Spence and Doug to move my entire household . Oh, oh...I got a fly-by-night outfit.
But I am desperate to get the thing into the house. I have audio equipment all over the place. I step around records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, speakers...four of them. OK, they'll be there tomorrow. Relief!
Later that day, the contractor returns my call. I want to make my new address as energy efficient as I can....and I want to be able to function in it in extreme old age....everything on one floor, for example. This means putting a washing machine in the kitchen...stuff like that. After experiencing my mother in an assisted living facility, I am determined to NEVER go into one. There is no health service that can't be provided at home, with a little thought and planning.
Ted comes over and We walk the house. There is a discussion of plans, my ideas and Ted's ideas. He is very good. I've seen the work He did for my friend, Carol. I just love her bathroom. Ted is more than a contractor. He is also trained as a designer.
Ted says stuff I did not expect to hear. Like: We will have to remove the plaster wall and replace it with insulation and sheet rock . Imagine demolition in a house filled with boxes and audio equipment all over the place. There will be plaster dust all over everything.
Ted recommends I not live in the house while the renovation is on-going.
Where shall I go? Where shall I put all my stuff? The obvious: back to Melba Street.
First call is to cancel the entertainment center move. The second call is to Spence. He is laughing because he is one of the men who helps Ted rip out plaster walls. He knows what is in store. Do We have to move EVERYTHING back? (I am hoping to address one room at a time. Could We move the big pieces of furniture into a pile in the middle of the room?)
Fortunately, there is a long wait to get Ted to do the work. I have a break to think about it. Most people wait a whole year before Ted can get to their contracted job. We have not signed a contract, nor firmed up our design plan. I guess I will just live with boxes in the livingroom for a while...a long while.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Spence and Doug came over this morning to help A. and me finish up moving. The small stuff that goes in boxes has been moved.
Gee I love my truck. It is such a useful a good horse. Anyways, the big stuff was sitting waiting for Spence and Doug (father and son team). Doug has another truck. Between the two trucks and Spence's van, We thought we had it covered.
I was sure that the queen size mattress would not go up the narrow stairs to the second floor, but 2 strong men and a lot of grunting got it up the stairs into my bedroom. The problem was the frame for the bed. It was supposed to come apart. It would be easy to carry the pieces up the stairs one piece at a time. No one could figure out how the corners should come apart. We see the screws. We took them out, but the frame stayed together. Scandinavian knockdown furniture is supposed to come apart. Right? After all, it came to America in a little box, then put together at the store, right? So all We have to do is the reverse of what the furniture store did. Right?
The frame would not come apart. Then I don't know what Doug did, but one corner came apart. He jiggled something. We did the same thing at the opposite corner and it came apart, too. To hell with the other two corners. It is in two pieces and small enough to go up those narrow stairs. Moved the frame to the new address. Put it back together. Put the mattress on top.
Moved the china cabinet, the buffet, the couch with the hide-a-bed in it (weighs a ton), the kitchen table (now the dining room table). Thank goodness it is not raining or snowing. It is just cold enough that the men take off their sweaters.
The last thing to be moved is the entertainment center. Oh Oh Glitch. It has the same come- apart technology that the bed frame has. The top piece is supposed to come off so the unit can go through the door. It doesn't come off. We lighten the unit all We can. We take the shelves out. Doesn't matter. The thing is the elephant in the living room. Won't budge.
Doug is running out of time. He has to get back to work. A., Spence and I finish the move, leaving the elephant sitting in the livingroom. Problem to be solved another day.
Back home, I start unpacking the glasses , china and tableclothes to be put into the china cabinet and buffet. They had been packed in newspaper. They have newsprint smear on them. I put them away dirty, reminding myself to take the thing apart and wash everything. But that is for another day. Boxes and newspapers are piled outside for trash pick up.
What remains are the boxes containing audio-visual stuff. I need my entertainment center.
Must call a professional mover in the morning.