BOYS’ LIVES

Now and then I get just a little sentimental about my sons. About those earlier years of motherhood. Before the three of us became responsible adults (Am I admitting it did take me awhile…). And before the time of the sons caring for this frail little old mother/lady which isn’t quite here yet…although drawing nearer by the moment! Many of these photos have been posted before but here they are again so grandchildren can take notice of the previous ‘cuteness’ of their now ageing fathers. 

The other day it occurred to me that I spend a lot of time posting photos and glowing comments about my amazing grandchildren…and rarely say very much about the formative years of two of the  extraordinary people who helped make them the practically perfect young humans they are…yes, that would be my sons, their fathers (not discounting for a moment their wonderful moms, but this is a photo album of some years in the lives of the boys).

I have two sons, Donald Scott and Steven Jon. Scott was born the month before my 21st birthday and Steven when I was twenty-four years old. So young. In the late 50s/early 60s girls got married just out of high school and soon thereafter had babies. True, many went off to college and then…got married and had babies: in fact almost all girls followed that love and marriage and babies path. I happened to meet and marry a charming young airman stationed in Orlando, Florida and, as a matter of course, became the mother of two lively, bright-eyed, handsome, and curious little boys. What great good luck that really was.

These nice little boys were, fortunately or otherwise, born to a bookish, somewhat introverted mother, and a playful, if often absent, father. At least their dad had actually helped raise younger sisters so he knew a little about small children but I, while loving my sons dearly, had no clue what to do with babies. I’d spent my entire youth hanging out in the woods, reading books, and wishing I were prettier and more clever. Without The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock it could have all gone wrong, but thanks to the good doctor and, being the plucky little boys that they were, they survived pretty handily.

It turned out that there were far too many relocations and dislocations in the boys’ young lives; although they came through all that too. I suspect the stories they’ve woven of their childhoods are sometimes better in the telling than in the living.

It all started when Steven was nine months old and brother Scott approaching his fourth birthday. The three of us climbed on board a Northwest Airlines plane in snowy Bemidji, Minnesota and flew halfway around the world to Angeles, Pampanga, Luzon, Philippines. The boys thrived there of course; adored by a housekeeper/nanny named Lety and a security guard named Chris, they really did have their own little tropical paradise.

Too soon, just a little less than two years later, it was back home to the US and Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Military bases used to be the best of places for young kids. Sheltered, watched over by countless military moms, playmates galore; also bases provided things to do, places to-be: air shows, pools, safe streets.

Paradise is an elusive location though, and when their dad left for an overseas assignment, the boys, various pets and I eventually wound up in an apartment in Greenville, North Carolina where I could continue a college life started in Goldsboro at East Carolina University. There, I am sorry to say, life was a little more awkward for the boys—their secure buddy-filled lives on base traded for an apartment with mom, a new school and no familiar friends. So it is these decisions, made rather carelessly by me, that I regret…I say ‘sorry, guys’ for being a thoughtless mother; they say (kindly) ‘Hey mom, we had great childhoods, no regrets.’ I do appreciate their considerate take on it, although the truth was probably somewhat different from time to time.

The good news for the boys was their father’s next posting, Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Back to the good base life, Perhaps this was the last absolutely easy carefree time in their lives. Base school, all those friends with whom to share games and pranks and treats on long summer nights and crisp fall afternoons. They had been exposed to my college life and politically active friends and chose to wear their white-blonde hair longer than the average military kid. This led to dad being chastised a couple of times when his wild little boys were easily identified as part of the pack that put the proverbial dog-poop filled bag on Sergeant WhatHisName’s porch. Fortunately Don was a nice guy who forgave his sons their foibles pretty easily.

LOOKING GOOD IN GOLDSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA.

THE FAMILY.

What followed all too soon would turn out to be a permanent move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, followed by divorce; a mother too involved in multiple jobs, school, and politics; and several neighborhood and public school changes for the kids as our economic fortunes waxed and waned.

Amazingly enough, Scott and Steven came through it all, a little battered and bruised, but also kind, smart, honest, funny, loyal…way above average human beings in other words. They went to school; they worked; they moved away for awhile, but Steven came back while Scott deserted us for that left-coast oasis of California.

Of course, nice guys like these create families with great partners and exceptional children. They work hard and play even harder as hikers, divers, runners, cyclists, gym rats, and dog wrestlers (a ‘sport’ common to all dog lovers. They are splendid fathers and probably kinder to their mother than she deserves.

So obviously I’m so very proud of these guys. If I’ve made them sound a little too perfect well let me tell you…. Just kidding. I mean you are perfect, guys……….nearly, almost, 99%. Love you.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY…YEAR…TO ME.

I’m awarding myself a year of travel for living so long. A year of travel interspersed with work and probably a new apartment. A year helped along by a family that gives me plane tickets for Christmas and a job that allows me to earn comp time toward extended leave.

When you wake up one morning no longer able to escape the finiteness of your remaining years of life, it’s time for action. You can drink a lot of wine, start smoking again, and watch every series ever produced by Netflix and friends. Or conversely you can eat more kale, walk 10-effing-K every other day and take some ‘sentimental journeys.’ I’ve opted for my version of the latter.

Back in the day Frank sang about those sentimental journeys but he was talking about having roamed the world and wanting to return home. My sentimental journeys of 2019 are designed to recreate my favorite and/or most meaningful and/or most challenging roaming experiences. I prefer the term nostalgia to sentimental…doesn’t have that connotation of sugary excess. First though, listen a minute to just one verse by the crooner.

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories

Here then…the 2019 journeys of ‘nostalgic’ significance through which I will celebrate family and friends, curiosity and this world…and living a really long time.

April in California. (Tradition/family/California Dreaming)

LAST YEAR, BLACK MOUNTAIN, APRIL 3, 2018

Continuing the tradition of climbing Black Mountain in the Penasquitos area of San Diego County on my birthday. I’ve done this for some years with eldest son Scott but this year, in honor of my extreme oldness, Albuquerque Steven will fly out to climb with us. After a few hours on the (not-too-long, not-too-steep) trail we will head downtown for what has become a San Diego birthday tradition—going to a Russian restaurant for a late lunch of borscht and a shot of pomegranate vodka.

Maybe LA, maybe a museum, maybe other walks and lunches while in San Diego, then up to the Bay Area for a few days with Lace, the travel-obsessed granddaughter, and maybe out for Ukrainian food in one of the hoods.

Life is good…I say frequently…and gratefully

June in Minnesota. (Home is where the heart … and brother and cousins and trees and walleye…is/are.)

THE OLD HOUSE AND I ARE DISSOLVING INTO A HEAP OF BOARDS AND BONES AT THE SAME RATE.

I missed Minnesota last year (except for a Minneapolis moment on my way to South Dakota). And I am feeling it…too long away and my inner child, who’s still that same scrawny little girl with big ears from the north woods, gets restless and needy. So two weeks with Robert and Marsha in a greenest of greens, mosquito-y Minnesota summer is essential. Besides I’ll shop to my greedy heart’s content with my Bender’s Gift cards (Thanks Marsha) and take pictures of Bob Dylan’s house next door in Hibbing for Albuquerque Bob and, oh yeah, did I mention eating a serious amount of walleye?

July in Quebec. (I have the extreme good fortune to have grandchildren who have been willing, occasionally almost eager, to travel with me.)

FIRST EVER TRIP WITH MY GRANDCHILDREN. TERESA, STEVE AND I TAKE THE SURFLINER TO LA.

Many, perhaps even most, of my favorite adventures here and abroad have been with those grandchildren. Starting with the Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and Los Angles when Steven and Teresa were toddlers, moving on to small journeys around New Mexico and California road trips with Patricia and Sara, and bigger adventures in New York, Paris, Oman, Norway, Botswana and …you get the picture—a whole bunch of places.

PATRICIA, SARA AND I ON A ROAD TRIP TO VISIT CALIFORNIA COUSINS.

Patricia and I have not been on a real trip together for a long time and this summer that will be rectified. We are heading to new territory for both of us—Quebec, Canada with Quebec City and Montreal on the itinerary. Patricia wants to go somewhere a bit different…and French Quebec fills the bill with history, culture and geography. I have been to Montreal but only for a meeting and since I love all things French and all things Canadian this is perfect. Yay us for our choice of destinations.

September in the ‘Stans.’ I wanted to travel to all of the countries in the world and for a few years I made lists and calendars and budgets that would make such a goal realizable.

However, one day it occurred to me that I had run out of the necessary years of life for such a project. Consequently I’ve settled for (so far) 110 countries and all of the ‘neighborhoods’—by which I mean areas such as Eastern Europe or Southern Africa or Southeast Asia or the Arctic or Scandinavia or similar groupings. I am almost through… have only Northern South America/Central America, Antarctica and Central Asia to go.

Central Asia, or at least a portion thereof, is next on the agenda—this September Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan with a stopover in Istanbul. The best part of this whole thing is that Scott and Lace will be with me. Travel buddies extraordinaire. We have a rule however. We must treat each other with the same patience and good cheer which we would accord friends. No whining on my part will be the biggest sacrifice. What’s the point of being a little old lady traveling with her healthy strapping son if I can’t whine? But. I. Have. Promised.

October in Dover Delaware, and Chincoteague and Assateague islands where Misty lives (little horse-obsessed girls grown old…you know of which I speak) with a side trip to Baltimore.

This is an absolute treasure of a trip…part old friends hanging out together (my old buddy and ex-boss Tom), part visiting the site of what was perhaps my favorite childhood book, and part just some leisurely exploring around historic Dover.

Then there are the probablies, possiblies and no matter whats listed here in no particular order.

August in Sioux Fallsmaybe. Maybe not? But I do need to hang out with those lovely Strom/Floren cousins whenever possible since we are all old-ish. And we have an enormous box of old family photos to go through.

Unknown long weekend in NYC when “Girl From the North Country” (Bob Dylan musical) opens on Broadway.

Week between Christmas and New Year’s 2019 at BaseCamp in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway with the northern lights and a sled dog trip around the mountain. Well this one’s a major long shot for reasons of money and general craziness but what are lists for if not to include too many things.

I got my bag, I got my reservation
Spent each dime I could afford
Like a child in wild anticipation
I long to hear that: “all aboard!”

2019…The Very Good Year

January 2, 2019

Planners/Thinkers/Writers/Doers Block. Not a particularly propitious way to begin a new year. Especially since I’m taking time off this week to enthusiastically launch all of the above. New Year’s Day was special admittedly—a near-blizzard snow day in Albuquerque warrants continuing my Un village français binge...but how to leave a story with only four episodes to go…impossible. I’ve lived in this WWII-era, Nazi-occupied French village off and on for the entire holiday season and it is surely time to return to Trump-occupied America and contemplate lessons learned from the French Resistance. Right after I finish these last four episodes.

The first 2019 ultimatum. If, Marjorie, you do not become productive as a planner-thinker-writer-doer by evening you must cut this vaca-time off and go to work tomorrow morning. How’s that for a threat?

New Year’s is every introverted list-maker’s favorite holiday. A whole evening and day that can legitimately be devoted to the solitary pastime of planning exactly how one will become a better person in a brand-new year.

Here are my several longish lists condensed into a longish sentence: I will spend 2019, a landmark year of the two-edged variety, not being anxious or melancholy but rather I will write, read, travel, photograph, and exercise a lot—and always eat healthfully—and never indulge my obsession for multiple-season TV series of the historical or murder-mystery genre.

Here’s to 2019—a very good year.

Is there anybody doesn’t love a snow day? All of our lives don’t we long for that magical moment when we were/are told the weather was/is too bad to go to school…or work…or the store even. Snow days are different than sick days or vacation days or holidays. Snow days are bonuses. In fact yesterday, when I informed our employees that we were closing today because of blizzard warnings, the exclamations of joy were louder than on the rare occasions we announce bonuses in the form of money!

Okay…so it’s only 26° with 24 mph winds and less than two inches snow accumulation. By Northome, Minnesota standards (especially back in the day) that’s just a regular winter day–here in Albuquerque it is an Event. It’s obvious why I want to travel in the Arctic isn’t it? Nostalgia. And my REI, Kathmandu and Basecamp outfits and accoutrements. Really, it is wanting to recapture something that can only return in the form of ever-fainter memories–a snowy day serving to jog those memories of kid-time and the little old house in the woods and mom and dad and Robert and wind howling and cinnamon rolls baking and two or three dogs under the table and a couple of stoves blasting direct fire-heat…

Well…darn…already the sun’s creeping out, doesn’t make it any warmer or less windy but spoils the whole effect for me. The closed-in, hunkered-down, reveling-in-coziness effect.

Here’s a hour ago:

Christmas “decorations” still up at my place!

Ghost withstanding the “blizzard.”

THE CRAZY CALIFORNIA COUSINS

What better way to end the holidays than with those wild California kids. They made the Thanksgiving holiday so much fun, so full of pleasure and joy. Today it’s a rainy (seventeen snowflakes around noon) wintery day; Friday actual snow is projected but this is Albuquerque so what are the odds! Enjoy….

Actually the weekend after … but Luna on the run is always a good opening picture.

This blog, Time and Place, allows me to share thoughts and images from the places I go—and occasionally here at home as well—and to record the pleasures and passage of time with friends and family.

For me, Time and Place has two main reasons to exist: Firstly, the pleasure of sharing my modestly adventureous travels and glimpses of my lively and lovely family and friends with the aforementioned, and hopefully a curious stranger now and then. Secondly, Time and Place becomes a real paper/print/picture book at the end of each year, a somewhat permanent record of my nice life—to be perused by me in a sedentary future and by future generations (which may only mean a granddaughter or two but that’s okay).

Now the 2018 wrap continues with this Thanksgiving post. The California family flew and drove in to spend the holiday with the New Mexicans and Minnesotans. It was a Special Event…but without traffic blocked off. Cooking, baking, eating; talk, lots of talk; and as there are no small children in the family at present, the three spoiled dogs took over little-kid duties of running about, spats, squeals and begging for snacks.

A good time was had by all…

THANKSGIVING 2018

No small children in the family but plenty of puppy dogs…

Is it time to eat yet…or yet one more photo op?

Patricia Comes to See the Cousins Off…

And Some Days Later…Marsha, Robert and Buddy Still Recuperating.

TWAS THE NIGHT *OF* CHRISTMAS

So many choices for Christmas trees in our Minnesota woods. We always celebrated on Christmas Eve when I was a kid. Mom made lefse and we put up the tree…cut that very day in our woods. We had ham with pineapple and sausages and sweet potatoes on top for supper. Then Mom read the story of the baby in the manger from the bible and we opened presents. When I was very little there were real lit candles on the tree instead of electric bulbs on strings! It was all ever so magical. For most of my life I’ve spent Christmas eve just a tiny bit sad because that magic is not possible to recreate. It’s unlikely the small strain of melancholy mixed with loneliness for a time and place and people will ever go away if it hasn’t by now. So here’s to the ghosts of Christmas past…

Now has its own magic however. Family, friends, good food, dogs, sweet and funny presents, and laughter. Last night.

THE SWEDISH MEATBALL STORY

THE END

THE STATE OF THE STATE OF ME


TWO LITTLE SCRAGGLY CHRISTMAS CACTUS A FEW MONTHS AGO. NOW THEY BLOOM. A GOOD OMEN FOR 2019 I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE.

2018 has been a year of preparation—for 2019 when I join the ranks of the old-old (although that doesn’t officially happen until I cannot make it up Black Mountain). However it is year’s end and here I am—still unprepared. I’ve tried. I have really tried. Climbing up and down the side of that schooner in heavy gear and walking the 10K in the Duke City Marathon. Allotting the reading of history as much time as the streaming of high drama of the international murder mystery variety. Trying for less caustic crankiness and more kindly objectivity in all things human (but then I remember Sleazy T. is still in the white house and all attempts at calm dignity go out the window). These are a few of my endeavors to maintain some degree of physical and mental health and to present myself in such a way that the grandchildren will think of me as a sweet little old creature worthy of occasional visits to the ‘home.’

2018 is limping to a close: the adverb limping was carefully selected—the country is limping from its Sleazy T. wounds and I’m limping from old bones, old muscles, old everything… but enough with the whining…

On the other hand, 2018 has actually been brilliant in many of its ways.

Our already practically-perfect family has a lively new addition—Ashley, the soon-to-be-bride of grandson Steven. That must make us just a whisper away from absolutely perfect. Actually only the family dogs are perfect but the rest of us keep trying.

We are all healthy—a creak here, a twitch there and that’s about all.

In 2018 I had six weeks of what was possibly the best trip ever—time in my blood ‘homes’ of Norway and Sweden. I traveled the length and breadth of the beautiful sensible comfortable safe Democratic-Socialist country of Norway, from the northernmost city, Longyearbyen— far above the Arctic Circle in Svalbard, to the southern point at Lindesnes. I crossed the Swedish border near Roros to meet cousins on my maternal grandmother’s side of the family for the first time. Last but certainly not least I visited with cousins and friends I’ve come to know and love in Stavanger, Kristiansand, Byglandsfjord, and Oslo. How could it possibly get any better than that?

About 2019. About writing. About family. About travel. About ageing.

Here’s my short note about that first difficult topic—Writing. It’s a short note because 2018 was a deeply darkly unsuccessful writing year. I have my resolutions for 2019 however. Eliminate enough extracurricular activities so Saturdays and Sundays are always dedicated to writing The Book. Yeah, that book—which I haven’t given up on but if I am going to move beyond the quarter or so already written it must happen this year, at least a full first draft. A serious scary, almost impossible to meet, goal. More about The Book at the beginning of January.

More that is if I decide to continue blogging. Which will require some ‘fixing’ time before the end of the year and dedicated evenings during the year.

One should never say too much about New Year’s resolutions—too many words jinx the effort. For the short time remaining of 2018, how about travel as the topic, with lots of family photos over the holidays, and ending the year on the high note of age.

 

FEAR

Yet one more comment on the election…as though we need more. I felt compelled…what a fearful time. Maybe the news will be good. Please let the news be good. Please…

IS IT A POISONOUS CHEMICAL SUBSTANCE, MOLTEN GOLD, A MIRAGE, AND WHAT ABOUT THAT AUTUMN-DEAD SPEAR OF GRASS?

“Be afraid, be very afraid,” said a character in the horror film, “The Fly.” Which is how I am feeling these pre-election days, and pretty much how I’ve been feeling since the night of November 8, 2016. It’s not just about the US where the dishonesty and hate is nearly overwhelming; it’s that much of the world seems to be moving in the same direction. Actually if we consider the long sweep of history we could reasonably assume this short time of economic, social and political gains for the masses has been a historical anomaly; ancient Rome and Athens, where the idea of democracy began, didn’t last that long after all.

Since I usually lean toward worst case scenario…? Is it possible this aberration of a few hundred years of a measure of equality, a modicum of citizen participation in the affairs of government—mostly but not entirely in the western world—could be coming to an end?

I’m hiding out this Election Day and night. I could have done more but I’ve voted (democrat of course…along with the ten other members of my immediate family) and contributed a few dollars. My experience with election results is generally not good—the first time I was involved—with all my heart and soul—was November 1972 when one of the few deeply honorable and profoundly wise people to run for president, George McGovern, was soundly defeated by the decidedly dishonest Richard Nixon. The election results told an early story even in those slow news times and we, the weary and disgruntled campaign staff, left the boxes of barbecue and pyramid of six-packs untouched to wend our ways home, one by sad one.

SO I LOOK A LITTLE ODD, BUT KIND OF CUTE TOO…RIGHT?

Since then there have been marches and rallies and election night parties, not so many full of exultation exactly, but happy enough. But through the good and bad times I’ve always had an underlying confidence in the government of the U.S., that our leaders, whether seemingly duplicitous or decent, generally wished the country well whatever their version of that was and however they intended to add to that well-being.

That is not true now. We have a president who is the casebook version of narcissistic—by definition caring for nothing but himself. When I googled Psychology Today’s definition of narcissist this line was included: “That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me.”  People like Trump are in power here and there around the world, fanning a giant wave of populism and nationalism. They find the people who fear the ‘other,’ who fear change, who are angry, people afraid of the future so they must try to recapture their own version of a ‘good past.’ They find them, stoke their fears, and tell them who else to blame, in other words people ‘not like them.’

Well, those people have made me afraid too. Of them. And what they have always wrought.

I’ve always liked Franklin Roosevelt’s pronouncement on fear.

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

So where’s this leadership of which he speaks. Perhaps it will appear Tuesday. In case it doesn’t I won’t know until Wednesday morning because I’m ‘going to ground’ for Tuesday’s 24 hours. Wondering where that expression ‘going to ground’ came from, I went to Urban Dictionary for the answer. Here’s one of their usage examples:  After robbing the 7-11, I plan to go to ground at my bro’s crib. I like it.

Hey, what remains of the sane world out there…wish us well.

 

GILDING THE GREEN

Our world is taking on a bright golden hue…our natural world, not the human or political one unfortunately. Fall is beautiful in temperate zones and we snap and post endless photos of the gold and the red and the glory of it all, and repeat the process year after year. Here is my annual contribution to the too-muchness of autumn photography.

 

It was quite a week, starting with last Sunday’s marathon, continuing with a dash of personnel drama at work, adding an absolutely smashing Joan Baez concert and winding up nicely with book club, a long walk in the Bosque, and the beginning of turning two of my office walls into a solid mapping of the world. Here are the pictures to prove it.

Book club time and a book lover with her well-worn copy of “Little Woman.”

My first Bosque walk in a long, too-long time. I love it down there in the brush and weeds and trees…every now and then breaking through to the river’s edge.