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We waited, lined up on both sides of the track, wearing sun hats, setting up tripods, pushing babies in strollers. We were a mass of railroad buffs, history lovers, curiosity seekers, teens on bikes – and drones. The event was well promoted on local television, radio and social media. The Union Pacific Railroad’s No. 4014  Big Boy was coming our way and folks from all walks of life and all ages, could see the restored steam locomotive as it passed through the western suburbs of Chicago.

Those more technically savvy than I were tracking the Big Boy’s journey on their cell phones, announcing to all who could hear “it is in Des Plaines” or approaching the airport“. It was like awaiting the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party – only no one was hiding and the guest of honor couldn’t wait to blow us a steamy kiss.

I was a bit “incognito”, as I was not supposed to be out in the sun (but, you know me and I figured I could always blame it on my car that has been known to veer off course).

I digress.

My friend Louellen and I found each other amongst a growing crowd. Her lovely daughter proclaimed “it’s making the turn” then “it is in Berkeley” and then, there it was, chugging along into the downtown Elmhurst station. It felt like a grown-up version of Thomas the Train, and I found myself wishing our grandson Ezra could be with me as he would have enjoyed it.

We could hear it, at first, in the distance. We could hear the prolonged, mournful wail of the train, see the billowy puff of charcoal smoke, then feel the vibrations and see the steam pour forth as we all experienced the clickety-clack of a different era and long distance rail travel.

Oh, dear friends, we cheered, we waved, we oohed over the gracious club cars and we felt the train’s whistle deep in our chests as babies slept in their parents’ arms, with men and women in business attire who left their desks and computers to stand and stretch to see the Big Boy. Grandparents and teens, students from the nearby Elmhurst College and so many railroad buffs in a gleeful crowd on a warm summer’s day. In front of us, a friendly and knowledgable young man was recording the event for his club’s website as we realized a drone was silently soaring overhead, filming a new journey for the Big Boy No. 4014.

Then, it was gone, off to the next bend on the rail and eagerly awaiting crowd.

As I returned home, I found myself in a thoughtful mood. I wondered at this massive marvel of transportation, the 4014 Big Boy, built more than 75 years ago, to traverse the Transcontinental Railroad, which linked the east and west coasts of America by rail 150 years ago. The railroad was constructed largely by Chinese, Irish, and other immigrants, in harsh work conditions across an often untamed, rocky, treacherous route so that those who followed could travel faster and in a safer way and for goods to be transported more efficiently. I pondered it all, from the comfort of my air-conditioned car, with a cold soft drink I purchased at a drive-through window of a fast food restaurant while listening to an audio book. I found myself grateful, oh-so -grateful,  for the opportunity to see a wee bit of our larger history chug past me on a hot summer afternoon.

The 4014 Big Boy’s journey this summer is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Raiload.  As I write this, the Big Boy has left West Chicago, Illinois and is heading toward Iowa. This is the link to the schedule of where it will be on the next leg of its Should it be near you on it’s journey, I encourage you to try to see it. .https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/schedule/index.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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We readied ourselves for the day, ate our breakfast in the hotel, gathered our stuffed backpacks, and walked the short distance to the National Mall, It was a brilliant day, perfect for celebrating America’s Independence. The girls were old enough to have an understanding of the why we celebrate the 4th of July, and young enough to maneuver around a city neither Tom nor I had been to.

Floats and citizens in costumes were finding their spots in the queue that would become a parade. We chatted a bit with a few participants, especially a woman with miniature horses. It was friendly and fun and not unlike the parade participants that would be gathering back home.

We the heard  “hear ye, hear ye, hear ye” summoning all, from the National Archives . There the Declaration of Independence was read by a scribe in period costume. I remember this moment clearly, standing in my 20th century clothes (it was still the 20th century) and imagining this treasonous document being read across the land more than 200 years past. I reflected on what this might have felt like, how anxious, determined, frightened citizens must have felt.

We hopped on a D. C trolly which took us hither and yon, the rest of the day.

We covered a lot of ground.

Our first stop was Arlington National Cemetery. The rows upon rows of headstones was sobering, the history of Arlington insightful. I choked back sobs at the eternal flame, remembering it first being lit as young girl when President Kennedy was assassinated, amazed at the well of emotions the small flame evoked. We viewed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and other points of interest amid a respectful grouping of people, from all walks of life, on these hallowed grounds.

Our day took us to the Lincoln Memorial, where we were free to view, to read the inscription, to share the history of this president and his presidency with our young daughters. We stood in amazement at the throng of people around the Reflecting Pond – all ages and all walks of life. We visited the Viet Nam Memorial, where I was helped in locating the name of a boy I went to school with, and we listened to a man, dressed in a safari outfit, looking for signatures to get his name on the ballot for United States President. I remember at first thinking he was a Park Ranger – how easily we can be fooled. There were, however, National Park Rangers all around us, for the National Mall is a National Park.

Tom and Jennifer and Katy and I went into the American History Museum and then the National Archives, where we witnessed another changing of the guard at the documents. (I think it was the Declaration of Independence. My memory is a bit foggy as one of our girls managed to walk in front of the armed guards in the ceremony. A moment we all remember.)

The Washington Memorial was closed for repairs that summer, but, we still stood in awe as we gazed upward. The Mall began to fill as dusk approached. We were ill-prepared, but, none-the-less decided to stay for the music and the fireworks on the Mall. This was long before the concerts that are now performed. There was a band and some vendors on the perimeter of the grand lawn. We purchased what were the absolutely WORST hot dogs I have ever had, but, they are a part of our 4th of July DC story, as is the portrait ingrained in my mind of the four of us, on the 4th, sitting on our jackets on the lawn as the grass filled with spectators. The music played on and the stars sparkled in the sky, even as helicopters scanned the area, protecting space above.

As night fell, the crowd grew, anticipation mounted – and finally fireworks filled the sky. I remain grateful that my family and I could observe this American holiday in our National Park – the National Mall.

Photos

Right –  Assembly Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia. This is the room where the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and signed. My photo from a trip to Philadelphia.

Left – Ben Franklin

 

 

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. . . in which the beginning of visits to three Japanese gardens that I began suddenly posted before it should have. It can be found here  My apologies if it was confusing (I’m confused 🙂 )

It is what it is, so,  let us walk together across this stone bridge from the Charlotte Pardridge Ordway Japanese Garden at the end of the previous post and travel together to the first of the Japanese gardens I visited.

 Watch your step.

One more bridge and then we will be . . .

. . .  at the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois.

As with many of my adventures in gardens and parks and forests, this was an excursion organized by the Elmhurst Garden Club’s Conservation and Education Committee. This committee, along with the Horticulture Committee, organize most of our trips. I have been wanting to go this garden in ever-so-long, so was as excited to go as these koi were to see us.

I have been to Japanese gardens before, but, this one seemed to be special – and it was.

We had a docent led tour, which made the experience more meaningful and insightful. We had two docents. One of the docents offered to take those who wished on a slightly less strenuous path with fewer steps to climb and places to stumble. Both were knowledgeable and engaging. We were asked to silence our phones, but, encouraged to take photos and to keep our voices low.

Our docent spoke of the elements of Japanese gardens; moving water, placement of living materials, paths, bridges, tranquil spots to sit and reflect, master craftsmanship and reverence for nature.

 

 

The garden was imagined by John Anderson as a young student and grew over the years. It was when he returned home from a trip to the Portland Japanese Garden in 1978 that he was inspired to turn his swampy back yard into a Japanese garden. Hoichi Kurisu, who directed the Portland garden, designed the Anderson garden. It grew over the subsequent years and was donated to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association in 1998.

 

 

 

 

This was a most delightful tour, followed by a most delicious lunch in the restaurant on the grounds and good conversation with kindred spirits. The food, our next project or trip, books – everything that women talk about with laughter in the traveling sisterhood of gardeners,  followed by the restroom, the gift shop and then the return ride home.

As I left the Rotary Botanical Gardens, mentioned in my previous post, I thought of the other two Japanese gardens. Each was designed in the Japanese tradition, each unique yet distinctive of this honored form of gardening. They were all tranquil and gently led me to a bench or large rock where I sat for spell and listened to the water, the birds, the whisper of leaves.

The gardens shared some facts. Benevolent gifts of land and of funds made them possible. Swamps, dumps and land used for other purposes were artfully developed into what we see today. Two were eventually donated to Rotary clubs. One (at the Como conservatory) was a gift of the people Nagasaki. These Japanese gardens were all close to industrial areas and all provide tranquility and peace for a small donation – or free. Two of them were conceived in the late 1970’s, the Anderson garden just a decade later. I visited two of them as the opportunity arose while traveling through three midwestern states.

They all gifted me a sense of peace in a troubled world – and I gladly accepted it.

Have you visited a Japanese garden – near you, while traveling?

Is there a Japanese garden near you?

 

 

 

 

 

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The art of stone in a Japanese garden is that of placement. Its ideal does not deviate from that of nature – Isamu Noguchi

Homeward bound with much of the long road behind me, I needed to stretch my legs. It was a pleasant day, I had been in the car for several hours, and I knew that the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin was a perfect place to stop for a break in my journey.

I exited the interstate, went the mile or so to the road leading to the gardens, and soon found myself marveling at the early summer blooms and lush greenery, the art installation and statues, the formal gardens, woodlands, vegetable gardens, and other botanical delights.

I was, as I often am, drawn to the entryway of the Japanese gardens . . .

. . . and I am always drawn to this bridge. Another of my photos of this bridge was the header for this blog quite a long time.

The Rotary Garden was a calming place to stop. I felt renewed for the last leg of my journey home.

As I walked back through the Visitors Center (and the restroom and the gift shop, of course) I realized that this was the third time in ten days that I had visited a Japanese garden. I wondered again at the coincidence as I merged back onto the interstate. I would pass Rockford (Illinois) on the next leg of my trip. It was the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford that the first of my trio of Japanese gardens was.

My son-in-law, Tom, knows me well. While visiting with my Up North family, Yia Yia was unsupervised for several hours while everyone else was at school or work. Just before she left the house, Katy remembered that her Tom (as opposed to my Tom) thought I might like the conservatory at St. Paul’s conservatory in Como Park. Katy gave me the necessary information, my GPS was soon loaded, and off I went.

This was my destination. The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. It is an amazing structure and home to tropical and exotic plants, as well as well  as as roses, lilies, and flowers you many have blooming in your own garden. The Conservatory is worthy of a post on its own, which I will endeavor to compose soon. I want to show you the sunken garden in particular.

I roamed the conservatory’s lush garden rooms, then turned a corner and found myself in what I believe is a newer wing.

Saint Paul and Nagasaki are sister cities.

The Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden was a gift from the people of Nagasaki. The garden opened in 1979. It has been renovated several times. This bright, airy passageway leads to a remarkable collection of Bonsai plants. In a rare moment for me, I did not take any photos of them. I wish I had. They were amazing, calming in their peaceful way.

I wandered outdoors, taking my time, enjoying the warm weather, the soft breeze, the stone lantern along the path and the soft chorus of waterfall. 

My visit over, I headed back having enjoyed a very sweet few hours.

Now, dear reader, something has happened with my wordpress account as I was writing this, so . . . I will do another post about the the third Japanese garden and hope that this update posts and in some way makes sense.

 

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The door is an unmistakable shade of Campbell’s tomato soup. It is as unremarkable as it is dependable, keeping the big, bad wolf without and us safe and sound within.

There is little reason to open the front door except to water the planters, shoo deer, chipmunks, and squirrels away, or to meet the occasional pizza delivery van. The business end of the house is in the back and most folks visiting know to go to the back door.

So it was that, on a mission to check the fuchsia Tom had given me for Mother’s Day, out the front door I went.

Something swished past as I stepped onto the porch. I paused, looked around and realized an awfully agitated robin was flitting about, expressing her displeasure at my sudden presence, just as the Antler Man meandered down the driveway to the check the mailbox and unaware that I was out on the front porch.

I said I could hear a disgruntled bird but wasn’t seeing it. I looked around then turned to straighten some twigs, leaves and raffia on the wreath hanging on the wall. Tom’s mom made the wreath from grapevines many years ago. We hung it up front a few year’s ago. I usually add a big, seasonal ribbon and put dried flowers, twigs, string, acorns and walnuts – items to keep it attractive and, at the same time, provide nesting material for birds.I hadn’t gotten to it yet this spring.

Just as my hand was setting to rearrange some errant raffia and dried plant material from last fall, the protective mama swooped past me, chattering away. My hand stopped midair. A mother’s intuition, perhaps, or just my own curiosity,  I moved closer, slowly upon my tippy-toes, and looked closer inside to the wreath.

There it was!

The reason for this engagement in my own version of Angry Birds.

How do you like my spring wreath, just outside the front door?

Meanwhile, this was already established at the back door.

Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm

 John Muir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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They were the largest, fullest, juiciest of snowflakes. Big blobs of a mashed moisture seemed to drop from the leaden sky with dollops of determination on an unsuspecting Saturday afternoon in a month known for April showers, not snowstorms. In between the whirling wind and pellets of sleet, I wondered where spring had gone to as I stopped at the grocery, the ATM, the library . . .  normal Saturday errands on a not-so-normal day.

It was just a short distance from the library, stopped at a red light,  that I noticed an OPEN banner in front of a small, local historical museum that I have been wanting to visit for a rather long time.

My car turned into the small parking lot, I braced myself against the ice and wind, trudged gingerly passed a patch of bluebells dusted with snow, climbed up the stairs of the historic Vial House and Museum and stepped into the warm vestibule where I was greeted by a volunteer who welcomed me in and briefly explained the current exhibition, a “Military Salute to Local War Heroes of WWI and WWII” . 

What an amazing, extensive historical collection of uniforms, articles, photographs, posters, memorabilia, and more – all donations to the historical society  from local La Grange and La Grange Park residents and on display for the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.

The Vial House was built in 1874 by Samuel Vial and is now part of the LaGrange Area Historical Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A well catalogued guidebook in hand, with numbered items/explanations, I walked around the rooms of this small but significant exhibition, matched items with historical notes, and felt the awesome gratitude at the service and sacrifice of so many, and the appreciation, yet again, for the small but mighty historical societies that bind our histories together.

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. . .  in the 1844 presidential campaign with the lithographic printing process.

Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster 1844-2012*

On a cloudy, cold Saturday at the end of March, snow flurries and gray skies dampening one’s spirit, I opted to head over to a small but significant history museum hidden in plain sight. I checked with the Antler Man to see if he wanted to meet me there. He did.

The Elmhurst History Museum sits in the historic Glos Mansion, just steps from the train station and the downtown business district of Elmhurst.

 

We parked and walked through the portico, climbed the steep steps to heavy, wooden doors and were greeted by a museum volunteer who welcomed us, handed us a brochure, and told us to enjoy the exhibit and museum, which we promptly and enthusiastically did.

This is an extraordinary exhibit with 50 outstanding reproductions of presidential campaign posters spanning two centuries, and reflecting the politics, printing and artistic techniques of their times. There is also a large collection of campaign buttons on display – and a voting booth in which to vote for certain posters with plastic chips.

I was especially excited as I finally got into the Oval Office.

These campaign posters reflected the decades they represented, as well as the candidates and campaigns, from all political parties, as well as artists and techniques of their eras. Jamie Wyeth to Alexander Calder and Ron English are among famous artists represented, but, there are “insiders and outsiders” represented as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in the Chicago area, or are visiting, I highly recommend this exhibit. If not, this is a traveling exhibit which might be coming to a museum near you, which brings me to your own hometown or area. There are so many small museums, often in historical homes or buildings, established by local citizens and societies who have endeavored to save their town’s history, stopped bulldozers, steadfastly raised funds and lobbied locally elected officials. Whether a one room schoolhouse, a gristmill, a windmill, a factory or a farmhouse, these museums are treasure troves of local history and reflections of who we were and are.

Do you have a small but significant exhibit near you?

 

* title of exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum, March 29 to April 28, 2019

http://www.elmhursthistory.org/315/Exhibits

 

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It was early afternoon, a few weeks ago. The lioness, March, was tossing the clouds about in the sky and the carts in the parking lot as well. I hurried my steps, pushing into the wind. My destination was the pharmacy inside the grocers where a prescription awaited me.

Ah yes, dear friends, the grocery store where many of my meaningful conversations happen.

I grabbed a cart and walked down the seasonal aisle; green shamrock napkins blending with jellybean eggs and enough bunnies for a year’s worth of Rabbit Rabbit days. As a voice behind me said  “Do NOT look to the right. I’m not buying any of this.“a multi-colored, twinkling ball bounced past me. “Good luck with that” I said as we both headed to pharmacy.

The mother and I chatted as we waited our turn in line. The daughter, who looked about 10, held her doll close as she built her case for “needing” the magic, glowing ball. Children are good at this; tenacious in their determination to get what they want. In my grandmotherly attempt to turn the girl’s attention to something else, I told her that her doll must be special to her and I mentioned that it was a big doll. The child stood the doll on the ground and said “She’s not big. Look how small she is“.  From this young girl’s perspective, the doll wasn’t all the big, and I concurred.

The mother, whose hands now were filled with a box of bandages and ibuprofen, asked her daughter if she would please go back to get a shopping cart. As the girl turned to go back down the aisle of all things seasonal and needed, she handed her doll to her mom.

The mother looked at me, holding the doll, and said, quietly “Thank you for being so kind to her. She loves this doll and takes it everywhere. Not everyone understands.”  She talked about her daughter’s challenges, showed me all the bandages on the doll’s face and explained that her daughter changed the bandages almost every day,  slept with the doll, the doll came with on errands and went to church with her.

Soon enough, I heard a cart bump into a shelf. A few extra “needed” things thrown in. “Wow. You found a few toys!” I said as the mom took the cart and handed the doll back to her daughter, mouthing “thank you” as the moved ahead in the line. I winked and said “ thank YOU” back.

We learn much from children, if we take the time. Tenacity and patience, love and acceptance. Caring and serving others. This young girl had some developmental challenges, and a heart as big as Mr. Rodgers. She reminded me that we all must love each other – just as we are.

Her doll’s name was Chucky.

 

Image of Chucky from walmart. com

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OR

How We Survived the Polar Vortex

From significant snowfall and frost quakes, to plummeting temperatures, cancelled airplane flights, school closings, business closings and even suspended mail delivery, we have been held captive by biting winds and subzero temperatures the likes of which will be long remembered in the annals of recorded weather –  and in the memories of those who endured it.

Let me begin by letting you know that we are quite fine, our electricity stayed on, we had contact with family and friends, enough food and water (and coffee and tea) and we remained safe and sound throughout. We are grateful.

I hope that those of you impacted by the Polar Vortex were warm and safe during it and are doing well now.

Predictions for snow, strong winds, and dropping temperatures came with ample warning days before the onset of sleet and snow. By Sunday afternoon, weather forecasts sounded more urgent with a bleak outlook for the week ahead. Early cancellations of meetings on Monday were prudent and appreciated, especially as the snow began to accumulate mid-afternoon.

Talking with a dear friend on the phone, we commiserated over the hardy souls who work in all  kinds weather; crossing guards, those who plough the roads and put out fires, law enforcement and mail carriers. It seemed that we no sooner mentioned mail carriers than I saw ours coming up the road. Tom was using the snow blower out front, clearing our long driveway. I noticed the mail truck wasn’t moving, then the Antler Man pushing the snow blower to the back. I, of course, in the comfort of our living room, kept talking. The mail carrier wasn’t moving, but, Tom was, shovel in hand he headed back down the drive and was soon working at getting the mail truck out of a ditch created by snow plows that had earlier made a pass down the Cutoff.

It was the last mail delivery for several days, not only for our town, but, for a large part of Illinois as well. It was dangerously cold to be outdoors. Even with several layers of clothing and coverings, frostbite is a serious condition and happens quickly in sub-zero temperatures.

 

 

The first “boom” I heard occurred at 5 am on Tuesday. It was loud and shook the house just a bit. I padded down the stairs to have a look, thinking one of the neighbors had slammed a car door. Sounds are different, louder, more pronounced in extreme cold and heavy snowfall. A car was idling in a neighbor’s drive, so I assumed that was the source of sound, even when another one followed and the walls trembled a tad. On Wednesday, we both heard more “booms” – an oddity hereabouts – but it was extremely cold temperatures that had our attention.

Registering at -23 degrees (F), it became the coldest temperature for Chicago on record for that day.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

BOOM!

In between the falling temperatures, the draft slipping in through the windows and doors, and the furnace that never stopped running, I kept apprised of family and friends through phone calls, emails, and social media. It was on social media that a news item appeared from out local television station, WGN. The sounds we were hearing were actually a weather-related phenomenon called cryoseism  – also called frost quakes or ice quakes!  The ground was quite sodden from warmer temperatures and rain, followed by snow and then rapidly falling temperatures. Suddenly, all news sources and social media were a buzz (or a boom) with this unusual weather related occurrence.

(photo from WGNTV.COM)

We are a hardy bunch, we Midwesterners. We adjust to the variable temperatures, the heat and humidity, the freezing cold and snow. We experience appreciable temperature variations often enough, especially here near one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. I think, however, that we will all remember the Polar Vortex of 2019 as we remember the Chicago Blizzard of 1967, Mother’s Day snow and more.

As I write this, Saturday night, it is 40 degrees (F). It was -21 degrees (F) on Friday morning! The groundhog saw his shadow, a yearly ritual to predict an early or late spring. Who knows? Maybe spring will be early this year. Predictions are for 50 degrees in a few days. As for me, I’ll wait and see.

Spring will come when it will and I will rejoice in all it brings, but, for now we are still n the heart of winter and February has just begun. I am a few days late in wishing Rabbit! Rabbit! to all, which is a greeting come the first day of the month. I blame it on the Polar Vortex – as did the bunnies when Tom came down the stairs on February 1 to discover this mayhem pictured below. Neither of us heard the crash, and the bunnies aren’t talking. I’m pretty sure it was the vibrations from a frost quake that jostled the glass top just enough to create this little scene.

THAT was the week that was!

(Do any of you, on both sides of the pond, remember that television show?)

 

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There I was, on the top of my tippy toes, a would-be heroine of the supermarket, brandishing the largest roll of Reynolds Wrap – surely the only thing in the store older than me. With my signature scarlet red overcoat (of Toots fame) and my ballerina flats, I hoisted my box of foil in an attempt to slay a box of Saran Wrap on the very top shelf.

There was a younger man – a fit-as-a-fiddle power shopper reading the label of something or other, a last-minute purchaser on Christmas Eve day. The store with aisles crammed with eleventh hour shoppers for that one ingredient needed. He seemed oblivious to my to-and-fro lunges as I leapt across the aisle with my weapon of choice in pursuit of the one item I needed.

On the very top shelf (isn’t it always so?), in the very back of said shelf were two rolls of the plastic wrap I needed. One on top of the other, as far back as possible and quite impossible for me to reach. I made room on the very bottom shelf to step upon, but, really? me? I don’t do well on any steps, let alone the very bottom shelf of everything and anything used in food storage.

I reconnoitered, looked helpless and hopeless, but, no one seemed to notice me, especially the fit-as-a-fiddle shopper, who seemed oblivious to my plight. He was at least six feet tall. What WAS he reading?

I uttered an “oh bother“, then proclaimed “en garde” as I leapt upward in a determined maneuver to pry the sticky wrap down, only to be bombarded with parchment paper and snack sized plastic bags. A squeaky wheeled cart snuck past and then a kiddie-cart whose diminutive driver actually looked up at me.

“One more try” said I to self. I lunged once more – then heard a sweet voice say “let me help you“. I looked down to the see the softest beige coat with hair to match gazing up at me. Not more than an inch taller, she said “We short people have to help each other out. Let me get that for you. ” – and she did. She reached WAY up and she nailed it. Really. She had these perfectly polished long nails and nailed it! She handed me the plastic wrap, I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas – and she drove out of sight.

Am I the only one who has such adventures at the grocery store?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Prc8zLJO83I

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