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Two years old!

10599694_10152605618646391_20501395321069020_nI’ve been up north for a few days celebrating a big boy’s birthday with his mommy, daddy and big sister Kezzie.

Happy Birthday Ezra.

 

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Ciao Bella

CoverCBAdvertJust after WWII ends in Europe, in the Eugannean Hills near Venice, Graziella waits for her husband to come home.  Ugo has been engaged in the Italian Resistance.  Although now at war’s end, he has not returned home, while most of his compatriots have. He is presumed to be dead, though no word has yet come.

Caring for her ill father-in-law, Giovanni, and dealing with Ugo’s large Italian family, Graziella (aka Grace), is weary of war, misses her life in Venice, and yearns for Ugo’s return – or, to at least know if he is, indeed, alive. The foreign wife of a member of the resistance, Grazielle is sent to the family orchards for safety. Ugo’s many sisters, all with the first name of Maria, their husbands, children, animals and extended family, as well as the other villagers, all of whom are suspicious of the beautiful Grazzielle, are a challenge to live among. All are barely surviving, in  poverty, near starvation, and living amid the devastation and horrors of war.

One day, a handsome American soldier happens by. Graziella, as well as most everyone else in the hills, hears the rumble of his motorcycle before seeing him. In an area often subjected to air raids, there is still a palpable fear of bombings, even though the war has officially ended.

Frank’s appearance is at first frightening, then a curiosity – and a cause for gossip. He befriends the men and boys, first, then the suspicious women, some of whom scheme for marriages of their daughters. Frank also endears himself to Giovanni, who thinks him his son Ugo, returned.  Frank takes refuge in Giovanni’s barn, repairing things on the farm, chopping wood, sharing cigarettes with men and chocolate with the children. It is his attention and feelings toward Grazziella, whom he calls by her given name, Grace, however, that is the heart of “Ciao Bella”.

A little slow in the beginning, Gina Guonaguro and Janice Kirk’s story gains momentum and is full of as much humor as dismay, with several unexpected surprises. It is at once a gentle read and a reminder of the horrors of war, the choices one makes and the consequences of those choices. It is sometimes sad and horrifying, other times  humorous and speaks to the human spirit and the will to go on. It also awakened me to yet another region, plagued by war and how people survive, move on, learn to live again in an intimate portrait of family, fears, and faith in the future.

In the end, I was quite pleased that I rescued this book, with its beautifully evocative cover, from the overflowing shelves at a local charity shop. Someone needed to bring  it home; might as well have been me. As I opened the cover, it appeared to have not been read. How sad, I thought. In excellent shape and hardbound to boot,  I merely had to reach deep into my pockets and pull our six quarters for this quiet portrait of life after war.

 

Chicago

 

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 This week was a week that was;  a toddling sort of week, in a Chicago big shoulders sort of way. A good week for a town often plagued with scandal, murders, and controversy.

It was a good week in Chicago. A week to forget for a bit the troubles that we have as we enjoyed the feel good moments of the National Little League winning team, locally referred to as JRW – Jackie Robinson West. In a town big enough to have two major league teams, the south side White Sox, and the north side Cubs, we finally have a team that has won a national series and became the National Little League champions.

On Tuesday, the “boys of summer”, as they are being called, were honored with a tribute at their home field, Morgan Park, with politicos of every ilk, media of every kind and accolades they rightfully earned. It was followed by a a parade through Chicago, a town that loves its parades, to an enormous rally at the lakefront in Millennium Park.

My dear readers, JRW is a team to be proud of. These young boys were humble in their achievements, and gracious in their loss as World Champions to Korea;  lessons to be learned by professional athletes, who scream, shout, and carry on.

Tom and I sat and watched the festivities, smiles and laughs and a tear or two. This little league team, it seems, has taught us all some big league lessons that have far more to do with life than about baseball.

We finished out this wondrous week that was by attending the last of the free summer concerts at the Burr Ridge Centre. For one reason or another, we only managed to get to one concert this summer; one that was just so-so. It was an ABBA tribute and should have been frolicking good fun, but, well, it just wasn’t.

Friday’s band was what we call a tribute band called the Chicago Experience – and oh, what an experience it was. A tribute band for a well known group of years bygone, Chicago. This band played, non-stop, for more than 90 minutes and would, I believe have gone on longer if the threat of thunderstorms had not been pressing.  They played Chicago songs without missing a note and took many of us back several decades; as far back as 1969.

Like their namesake, Chicago, the Chicago Experience consisted of more than most groups of the era. This was a 10 piece group of musicians, at least that was how many I could see and count, replete with a phenomenal horn section.

Yes, dear reader, it was a very good Chicago sort of week – and a grand way to officially end our summer.

This music video is Chicago, the original group, courtesy of YouTube, not the Chicago Experience, though it could easily have been. We had fun at the concert, even more so since our friend Rick, a trumpeter himself, was with us. His appreciation and reactions were priceless.

Does your town or region have a rock group that carries its name? Did you see a live summertime music performance this year?

 

Photo source http://www.sportsworldnews.com/articles/17076/20140823/jackie-robinson-west-stars-chicago-play-little-league-world-seris.htm.

As we begin the long goodbye

DSCN5391It is the in-between time, here on the Cutoff;  not quite the end of summer, nor yet the beginning of fall.

The ornamental and prairie grasses are reaching their peaks and starting to show their plumes. A few late-blooming hostas are holding court, issuing their intoxicating fragrances, and the Sweet Autumn Clematis is promising a splendid display atop the arbor . . .  the days grow shorter and shorter.  Bittersweet days of August, these are, and none the more so than today and yesterday, as I snipped the last of the daisies.

Deadheading is always such a painful chore.

A week before the Fourth of July, I fretted, hoping that the daisies would last for the holiday. They did! Now, some six weeks later, they are finally spent. To say they put on a good show, and stayed for an encore performance, would be an understatement. The snip, snip, snipping has finally brought the curtain down on their long performance.

The flower beds are a bit tidier now that the daisies are tamed. There is more to do, however, as we begin the long goodbye to summer. Just for a while, though, I’ll dream again of daisy chains and the sunny centers of my imagination.

DSCN5070The daisy follows soft the sun . . .  Emily Dickinson

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Rimshots and Whatnots

 

DSCN5599We sat in the cool of Chianti’s restaurant, munching on bread sticks and sumptuous salads, sipping iced tea, playing peek-a-boo with baby at the table nearby, and chatting about the vast venue of shiny vintage autos lined up in precision along the main drag at Sunday’s Geneva Concours d’Elegance.

Our table talk went from antique cars to wheels and rims, hood ornaments and horse power and all that comes along with a vintage car show, especially one of this caliber. Tom asked how my photos were and if I was going to do a post with them. Of course I was – and I even had a title brewing. Rimshot.

This led to a conversation about the term, which I thought was about basketball. You know, when the ball hits the rim, rolls around, and points are scored?

Not really. No. Uhuh. A rimshot, I was kindly informed by my handsome dining companion, aka Antler Man, is when something happens on stage.  A lame joke sort of thing where the drummer hits the rim with a drumstick

 Mr. Google helped me defend my own rimshot impression, however, for it also has a basketball reference, which made me feel better as I was beginning the think that the oppressively hot and humid day and the glare of the sun on all the shiny metal had melted my brain. Phew! So, dear reader, here are some rimshots of a vehicular sort, taken along the Geneva Concours d’Elegance. From a simple city gal who loves flowers and books and butterflies, a collection of vintage tires, rims and other memorable medal from our  motoring past.

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Divinity

DSCN5533A deliciously divine brunch filled us on a recent Sunday afternoon. We ate and our small gathering chatted for hours thereafter at Rick and Patty’s house. Their charming home reminds me of a secluded cottage, even though their front door is but steps from their street. They are such dear friends and gracious hosts with an easy manner and comfortable home.

This is the view from their front window. The lace from the valance within evoked the textures of leaves and flowers from without.  If I were a painter, I would brush this scene for eternity; an heirloom of life and nature.

Several of us retreated to their cozy front porch.

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Don’t you love porches? I’ve heard it said that when we replaced our front porches with backyard decks, we lost the sense of community around our homes. There may be some truth in that, for it is on front porches that one can see the neighborhood pass by; children on bikes, walker, runners, and strollers; the joys and the sorrows of those passing by who live among us.

As I sat, I found myself missing the front porch of our first home. It wasn’t very big, and it faced the west, so was often quite hot in the late summer afternoon, but, it was where I sat and watched children returning home from school, read books in the early evening, sipped tea with a bouquet of flowers nearby, for it was the best place for the garden’s cut bounty. Kids would come up our long wooden walk to sell Girl Scout cookies or popcorn for the Boy Scouts, petitioners approached, looking for signatures, or the wave of a friendly arm from a car going by greeted me and my thoughts.

It was just an arm’s length from this porch where I placed Casa Blanca lilies, exhaling their perfume at night. It was where the lightening bugs danced, and where frogs often appeared.

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As my memories wafted in the summer breeze, I felt the grace of friendship and the ethereal beauty of the flowers around me, imagining their sweet aromas at nightfall.

I think it is good to reap memories – and equally good to sow new ones.

Do you have a porch, or memories of a porch?

Holding On

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Taking the Hands

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand. 

 from “Silence in the Snowy Fields” by Robert Bly

 

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