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Barumpapumpum

Edward Herrmann:Richard Gilmore:Gilmore Girls FatherThere I was, holding five items in my hands, which was one item too many to be juggling with at least one at a precarious angle.

It was the wrong time of day to be at a grocery store – Trader Joe’s to be exact. 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, which in itself wouldn’t be all that bad if not for the fact that the next day was Mother’s Day. The store was packed with last minute shoppers also holding equally precarious handfuls, many of them last minute bouquets of flowers for Mom.

I like Trader Joe’s, especially the one closest to us which is, I assure you, the friendliest one around.

As I stood in my line, a very tall man was attempting to use his credit card to make a purchase of odds and ends of eating possibilities and several bottles of store brand wine. He bore an uncanny resemblance to the late Edward Hermann, and the demeanor of a few characters he played. The man seemed kindly and was patient as the cashier hit a bit of a snag ringing up his purchase. The credit card was not working.  and a call for a manager was rung.

Just as the bell peeled the requisite number of tolls, a disheveled man just shy of middle age came barreling around the corner with his own children’s chorus in tow. Two boys and a girl of various ages from what seemed to be  5 to 10 years old, were humming along with great gusto. I recognized the song from Star Wars.

Bum bum, bumbumbumbumbum, bumbumbumbumbum, bumbumbumbum.

Their father was doing all he could to simultaneously hush and ignore them. He failed at both as the rest of us in five equally long lines smiled. The trio was really getting into this rendition.

Bum bum, bumbumbumbumbum, bumbumbumbumbum, bumbumbumbum.

The oldest child, a boy, was the ringleader. I saw the twinkle in his eyes as he suddenly switched gears (both musically and with the now dancing shopping cart).

Barumpapumbum, rumpapumpum, rumpapumpum . . .

, . . just as Mr. Hermann swiped his credit card, one more time, and turned his neck to look at the children’s chorus.

I don’t know if it was the kids’ decision to change their tune, rather masterfully, or if it was the conspicuously large wad of Scotch tape hanging clinging to Mr. Hermann’s right earlobe that did me in. I couldn’t help myself. Really. I couldn’t. I turned into a child myself and started giggling, trying to imagine what circumstance brought this errand mass of tape to Trader Joe’s on a late Saturday afternoon. The poor checker noticed the sticky wad just after I did. The poor fellow had all he could to finish ringing up the order without laughing out loud.

So it is. Just a wee bit of grocery store humor on a brilliant spring morning, here on the Cutoff.

Have you been stuck on anything lately.

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IMG_6484A mid-afternoon errand took me into La Grange, first to the post office, then Trader Joe’s, where they were holding some flowers for me to use in an arrangement for our garden club’s luncheon. Once those stops were made, I crossed over the tracks and my car just did what it often does, it veered left (when I should have been heading due south). I heard that a new florist had opened, and, well . . .

. . . this is what I found.

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Bloom3 is a unique florist with unusual flowers as well as garden inspired objects,

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and through this door, which looks like the original door to what must have been a safe, was another long table and chairs. Such an atmospheric space can be used for small gathering, planting workshops, and, I suppose, wherever one’s imagination might wander. I can imagine a garden club making arrangements, or a group of youngsters learning how to transplant violets, or even a small bridal shower.  What a fabulous place to bloom.

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IMG_5832. . . on yet another bookish adventure in my inter-library loan system, this time at the Indian Prairie Library,  I noticed this poster as I started to walk out. I decided right then and there to sign up for the lecture, which was to begin in about thirty minutes. Sometimes spontaneity becomes an illustrative page in time.

The meeting room was close to being a full house as interested library patrons and others gathered for the lecture. I was actually surprised at the 1 pm turnout. It looked to be at least 60 people – a good number on snowy weekday afternoon.

Isn’t it amazing what public libraries provide?  From the Lannon stone structure in Western Springs that recently gave me solace, to the day I was “mullioned” –  and lived to tell the tale – libraries have also been havens for me. They not only house books; they instill knowledge and awareness through lectures and provide places to meet, to learn, to expand our knowledge. Public libraries are such treasures, but, you already know that.

The Chicago ‘L’ is an integral part of the City and suburban transport system. It grew out of the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire with its early transports taking patrons to the Columbian Exposition. The Windy City and the ‘L” grew in tandem, raising the City of Big Shoulders up from the ashes and expanding it outward to the north, the south, and the west, part and parcel to eventual urban and IMG_6010 suburban sprawl.

I found Greg Borzo to be an interesting, entertaining and engaging speaker.  A noteworthy historian with a passion for the City of Chicago, I know I would enjoy having him for a docent on a Chicago tour. He proceeded to bring the steel and beams of Chicago’s elevated trains to life as he mapped the history of early means of transportation in the late 1800’s with many vintage photos, some of which I am showing here and credit to Greg Borzo’s book, “The Chicago “L” ” .

I am most familiar with the Lake Street “L” and can vividly remember my first time on it, catching the “L” in Oak Park with my mother, heading downtown to the dentist, whose office was in the Field Annex  of Marshall Fields.  So clear is my memory of all the stops along the way and all the stations, up in the air, where people got off and people got on. I remember Ma saying,  “Penny, we are now in the Loop” as the train circled round, making a loop, squeaking as it turned, the upper floor windows of businesses so close I could see in them. I hoped it wouldn’t fall down while in awe, catching the sun as it would  play hide and seek sun, peaking around the skyscrapers.

Greg Borzo spoke of the many train lines that are all a part of the “L” system and how the subway eventually came into being, an underground system of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). He showed photos of workers digging out the mud, underground, to form the tunnels that would accommodate the underground trains.

I was particularly interested in the funeral train cars, recalling childhood stories of how my paternal grandfather’s coffin, family and mourners were taken from the City to Elmwood Cemetery in the suburbs. The train my Papou’s coffin was transported in would not have been on the “L”, but, the funeral car would have looked similar to the one I show here from the book.  I can only imagine the long ordeal of sadness and grief, riding the rail out of the city to suburban areas during the Great Depression.

On a lighter note, we were also reminded of the many movies with scenes filmed on the Chicago “L”.  Can you name any?

Do you have an elevated transport system where you live?  Have you ever ridden on an elevated train?

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I can’t wait to see what my next library visit brings.

Photos are from The Chicago “L”  by Greg Borzo

 

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IMG_5142It had been an exciting, fun, terrifying, heartbreaking school year, and summer had finally arrived. 1968/69 took me away from home for the first time in my life, living in a college dorm, exploring my freedom, making new friends, and then, suddenly, losing my father to a short battle with cancer.

I needed a summer job. An acquaintance of my mom’s worked for an employment agency and found me one, with a small insurance company. By small, I mean very small. It was in an old building, a storefront, across from the El tracks in Oak Park. It was owned and operated by an elderly gentleman, his middle-aged son, and a secretary. I would type, answer phones, file – and I was to tell them I would not be returning to college in the fall.

I am NOT a good liar. I do not lie BUT,  I needed the job. My father had died that spring and if I was to return to school, I needed money. A  “sad sack” story of coed who needs the job to get the education.

They hired me. 9 to 5. I had a few dresses that were way too short, which was pointed out by Madame Secretary. She didn’t like my long hair, either. It was long. Very long, down my back, parted in the middle, straight and full. Did I say it was 1969? Most days, I pulled it back in a long ponytail. A compromise.

Madame Secretary gave me typing and other chores to do; the sort that one would expect for girl #2 in a one girl office. Thankfully, I never had to make the coffee. Mr. Johnson, who was really very nice, was Swedish, with a tiny bit of an accent, and he liked an egg cracked into the coffee grounds. He drank his coffee with a sugar cube (or more ) in his mouth, and I always felt I should bring him a tin of butter cookies, but, this was long before I became a good cook.

His son was looking toward new ventures and buying real-estate and such; the way father/son business relationships can sometimes go. I was tongue-tied and timid around him. I think this was my first realization in life that I related better to the grandparents of the world. Ha. I still do, which is probably just fine as I now am one.

June turned into July, July into August. I rode two busses from our apartment, transferring mid-route. I would go out and walk during my lunch hour, stopping at a drugstore for a treat or to call home on the pay phone, or, more often, call my Aunt Christina. She had a way of making me feel better about my circumstances, and, if that didn’t work, always had some choice comments about the boss (son) or the secretary.

I missed my college friends. Most of them lived several hours away. A few lived in the area, along with high school friends, but, even that was a challenge as I no longer lived in the same towns as they did. It was a lonely summer, but, one often spiced up with letters from friends, phone calls, and a few dates with a really cute guy I met just before classes ended that June.  He lived in the southern suburbs and called me often on the phone. We went on quite a few dates, mostly to the movies, getting to know each other. He played guitar and had performed at his sister’s wedding that summer, which seemed pretty “cool” to me. Did I say he was really cute? and he was really tall.

As the summer wore down, those dog-days of August made the bus rides close to unbearable. I thought of my college chums and getting back to school and started fretting about what I was going to say to Madame Secretary and my bosses. It was mostly Mr. Johnson, the elder, that I felt badly about. He was such a charming gentleman. With only a few weeks left before I needed to pack up my belongings and head back downstate, I needed to come up with something to say; an excuse of why I would be leaving.  They hired me as full-time with the understanding that I would not to be going back to school.

Oh, how I fretted! I don’t remember if it was one of my friends or just my own lame brainstorm, but, on a Monday in mid-August, wearing one of my shockingly short dresses, my hair long, still parted in the middle, and in PIGTAILS, I arrived at work. I sat at my desk, which was on the west side of the room (why do we remember such unnecessary stuff?) I told Madame Secretary, when she came in, that I had something to tell her. “Oh? What?”.

Sigh.

I told her I needed to give notice. I would be leaving in two weeks.

Why couldn’t that just be enough?  She wanted to know why, of course, and that was when I blurted out “I’m getting married.

In two weeks?

Once you start down the road of lies, it doesn’t get shorter, does it? No.  It gets longer, with sharp, snaky turn and unexpected detours.

Yes. I’m getting married.”

In two weeks? Who are you marrying? I didn’t even know you had a boyfriend” “Who is he? What’s his name? Why so fast?”

“His name is Tom”. (I’d had a date with that cute, tall guy that weekend.)

Those two weeks were terrible. Madame Secretary pumped me with more questions than you can imagine, and she was angry, very angry with me for leaving, and the son wasn’t very nice, either.  Mr. Johnson was as pleasant as ever and made a point of talking to me over his cup of coffee with a sugar cube in his mouth, every morning. I think he figured me out. His kindness was charitable and sweet.

As bad as the initial lie was, it grew, like Pinocchio’s nose. Where was the wedding? Would we have a honeymoon? Where? What did TOM do?

Oh, friends, it got worse. I counted the hours of each of those days through those two weeks of deception. I told Madame Secretary that we were having a small wedding in the Greek Orthodox Church (no one has a small wedding in a Greek Orthodox Church) and that we were going someplace in Wisconsin. I couldn’t even come up with a place in Wisconsin. I said that we were moving in with his parents (whom I hadn’t even met).

Madame Secretary wanted to know what the color scheme of our bedroom would be. l said pink, while turning pink!! Really. Could I have said anything else? Pink! Pink? I was evasive in my answers, and can only imagine what they thought of me. Actually, I realized that what they thought of me was probably that I was pregnant and that we would be deposited in his sister’s bedroom. Remember. She had gotten married that summer.

So, on the last day of work in that storefront office, with old wood floors and coffee percolating, Madame Secretary informed me I could leave early (for I was getting married that weekend). Oh, the web we weave . . .

They called me to the back room and we all had coffee and cake, in honor of me and the groom, and engaged in unbearably uncomfortable small talk. Then, they handed me a nicely wrapped wedding gift!

. . . and that, my friends, is how I came to receive a lava lamp!

I did send a thank you card, as Mr. and Mrs., and, to add to my crimes, I spelled the last name wrong.

THE END

(Oh, and yes, four years late I married the cute guy, and four years after that, I had that baby.)

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IMG_5223Earlier this month, in our year of celebrating 90 decades, our garden club looked to the 1960’s, which was great fun. A fair share of hippies and flower children were in attendance and ’60s food nourished us, especially this darling porcupine/hedgehog cheese log.

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It was an awakening to look back at the ’60s; not only for the memorabilia that members brought, but, in the video display of the major events of that decade. While there is no doubt that we live in often violent times, definitely turbulent times, make no mistake, the 1960’s was an equally frightening decade. We made it through those years, and I have hopes that we will make it through these.

We just need lava lamps to light the way.:)

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When our luncheon was over and our business meeting adjourned, we wandered into another room in the Wilder Mansion where Mark Spreyer gave an engaging and informative presentation on owls, as well as speaking about the Endangered Species Act, which came out of the 1960’s. Mark is with the Stillman Nature Center in South Barrington. He is an outstanding speaker with a remarkable rapport and respect of these beautiful birds of prey.

The owls Mark works with often come from other nature centers, such as the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, which cares for sick or injured animals. Once recovered, some of these creatures, whose injuries are such that they cannot be released back into the wild, are taken in by the Stillman Nature Center. I was impressed with the respect Mark has for these birds – and they for him. At one point, he made an owlish call as this beautiful Screech Owl recognized him, returning his call (they don’t screech).

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This Barred Owl was magnificent, often spreading his wings. These birds are such glorious creatures and I left both in awe of the birds and grateful for such caretakers as Mark and such places at the Spillman Nature Center. Barred owl

Do you have owls where you live? Did you have a lava lamp? Do you remember the 1960’s?

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I know it is just a television series. A bit of a soap opera. A serial. I know. I know, but, I just cannot seem to help myself. I am  filled with anticipation, a wee bit of sorrow, but mostly excitement for Sunday night’s premier of the final season of Downton Abbey.

I don’t mind so much that Downton Abbey will end. I know that all good things must, I am just, well . . . I just cannot wait to see what all my friends across the pond already have seen. They have all been very discreet and not spoiled the plot lines and ending for us, and I thank them.

Lady Violet is sure to have her share of pithy phrases, and if I must confess, I really like the Dowager House the best.  Thomas will be typically Thomas, I’m sure. Mrs. Hughs and Mr.Carson will say “I do” (or will they?). There are hints in the trailers about the Ladies Mary and Edith, their love lives, car races (see, Tom, I told you there are “guy things” at Downton) . I do hope Edith finds someone to love her who doesn’t leave her at the altar, or die. The Bates?  Will they find peace in their lives and maybe a wee bairn?  Will Sibbie and George get to play in the nursery together again? What about Branson? I’ll miss Mosely . . . ah, but is isn’t over yet. If fact, it hasn’t even started, so, I think I’ll just put on a pot of tea and see if there are any Christmas cookies left in the tower of tins to tide me over until the opening bars of the Downton theme start stringing their way across the telly.

When I saw this jar of Downton Abbey orange marmalade at Cost Plus World Market over the holidays, I plucked it right off of the shelf like a Sunkist orange grower. I brought it home in sweet anticipation. A certain young lad enjoyed a good bit of it on English muffins over the Christmas visit. Ezra really likes orange marmalade, and seems to especially enjoy this export from the Crawley collection. Our charming  little tyke starts planning his breakfast the moment he gets out of bed, with “orange jelly”  often the first words out of his mouth in the morning, but, I digress, as grannies often do.

Off I go, to start my day, in sweet anticipation of the beginning of the end of Downton Abbey. How about you? Are you a fan of the series? Is another series on your watch list?

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A short doctor’s visit (the visit, not the doctor), the visit routine, and a quick walk around the Center for Health (great way to get extra steps in, for I AM counting my steps these days). I had a few stops on my way back home and a text message  from my Tom asking if I’d like to meet for lunch at Cafe Calbay. Of course I would. Cafe Calbay is one of our favorite little diners with a 1950s feel; a wrap-around counter and vinyl seat charm.

I was about 20 minutes early, so, parked my aging mocha VW with a latte interior, and wandered over to the little consignment shop around the block. It is a very sweet little shop with vintage furniture, classic books, dishes and dolls and seasonal “stuff”.

As I opened the door, I caught a glimpse of red and white plaid (or was it checks?), but, couldn’t maneuver my way around two shop volunteers who were busy in conversation about grandchildren, what to wear to a tropical wedding and whether or not the table the two of them were dusting was shiny enough.

At long last, an opening, behind the chair, which was whispering “Penny, come check the price tag“. I did, and nearly swooned into a faint.

$20.00

I sucked myself in and squeezed in a less-than-ladylike maneuver around the chair, ever-so-careful of the Christmas ornaments displayed on the attractive breakfront.  A wee little tear in the chair’s upholstery was the only flaw. Look left. Look right. Stand up. Sit down. Perfect!  This wing-back was beyond comfortable and the ottoman was just the right height.

I pulled out my cell phone and took a photo, for the chair was posed quite contentedly with the noonday sun warming its seat, then, I scurried out the door, for Tom was surely waiting in the cafe. I’d show him the photo and we would come back.

While visions of sugarplums danced in my head (for this was THE perfect chair to flank the fireplace) we ate our lunch.

Sated and satisfied, Mutt and Jeff walked back to the little shop, and I gasped, for there was one of the conversant volunteers, putting something on the back of MY chair, and there stood a man, not MY man but another’s, who had just purchased my checked sit-upon.

She who hesitates . . .

 

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