Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Minding Frankie - Maeve Binchy

I've always heard that the Irish are great storytellers and Maeve Binchy has proven the stereotype. I've also heard that the Irish are full of blarney ... and again, Ms. Binchy proves the cliche.  I picked up a copy of her 2011 offering at the library last week, needing a light read after having read a dark mystery. Minding Frankie seemed just the ticket - a light-hearted story about a young man with little life direction and a huge addiction to alcohol is redeemed by the revelation that he has fathered a child. The child's mother is on her deathbed and pleads with him to care for the little girl after her death. Miraculous changes are brought about by a tight-knit neighborhood of folks who pull the small struggling pair through the first year of the child's life and the first year of the young man's struggle to ditch the booze and prove his meddlesome social worker wrong. Meanwhile, the neighbors all have their dramas and crises ... sounds like a really cast of characters, yes?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

For the past couple weeks, I have driven a back road to take my son to and from his new job. He is so excited to be beginning a new career and working to save money for his own vehicle. It's exciting for me, his mother, to see him striking out on what may be his life's work! Helping him along a bit before he gets himself settled financially is all I can do for him at this point. It's been interesting to watch him, in the evenings, review paperwork and talk with his Dad about the machine work and manufacturing and production practices. He's excited to finally become focused on a career path, taking classes in manufacturing and machining, working this new job, and making plans for his future.  I think about his transformation from unsure young man to enthusiastic and gung-ho young man.

As we drive - he, on his way to another day of machine work and I, sending him on his way with hopes and prayers for his success, we watch the passing scenery.  Every time I drive by this gate, I am reminded of an old George Harrison song. This afternoon, the sunshine was so bright and the sky so blue against that field that I had to stop and snap a picture. He rolled his eyes when I said we had to stop and enjoy the view (and smell the hay and roses). His mind is on other things these days; I guess this little lesson will have to wait for a bit.

It has been a while since I participated in Alyce's Saturday Snapshot photoshare, but this photo seemed right for the middle of July. What do you think? I wonder what others are posting this week? To see ... click this link and enjoy the snapshots and the stories behind them!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Summertime Story ...

When I was a kid, I lived in a warren of a neighborhood filled with growing families. Mothers stayed home and tried to make their homes and yards unique, which was hard considering the houses all looked alike architecturally and sat on lots that were all exactly the same size. The streets were laid out in grids and filled twice a day with cars zipping to and from work ... fathers went to work, mothers stayed home, and kids ran wild in the back yards and woods that buffered the neighborhood from the state highway that ran adjacent to all this familial bliss.

During three quarters of the year, the neighborhood was set on a strict time table of work, school bells, shopping and errands, and the three meals a day at which every family gathered for a quick catch-up. When summer rolled around, though, things slackened up considerably. Backyard tents sprouted and kids had sleepovers, the screen doors slammed at all times of the day and night, houses would get quiet and yards would go untended for a week here and there, as families left for vacations. The locusts hatched out and climbed trees to whine and hiss in the heat, and we kids reigned like Viking hoards across the yards and paths of the King/ Merrit/Alden blocks.Those days of summer were filled with all sorts of small entertainments. The big ones were reserved for the holidays - 4th of July, Old-Fashioned Days, and Labor Day. Independence Day was the sweetest, though, because it was the first big holiday of the summer.

As the 4th of July approached, our bikes became the center of a neighborhood design competition. Old playing cards got clipped to the spokes of wheels so that they clacked and snapped as you rode up and down and all around the blocks. Crepe paper and tossed toilet paper rolls became red, white, and blue streamers that were slipped onto handlebars or propped upright on tail fenders so that they streamed out behind when you were riding at breakneck speed. Stuffed animals and dolls got dressed up in their finery to ride atop handlebars or bounce along in small wagons that got attached to the back wheel's axle.

Sometimes, inventive kids used cast-off cardboard boxes and constructed elaborate 'faux floats' that they lowered over the bikes and themselves. The straps holding the 'float'  would ride over the shoulders of the kid and made for interesting steering and control issues. The best one I remember was made by a kid from the Alden block. He made himself into the top of a skyscraper. The box was the building and his head and shoulders formed the pointed top a la Empire State Building . His hat was all silver aluminum foil and was topped with a lightning rod funnel top that sprouted red, white, and blue foil 'sparklers. He was fantastic! Most of the kids, though, had to make due with decorating hats to top off their bike theme. Straw hats were loaded up with flowers, pictures of sports and political heros, ribbons and bows and had to be strapped in place or risk getting tossed by the wind and flattened by other bikers. It was always such fun to, then, ride in the 4th of July parade right down the middle of Main Street Massena, New York.

By the time the evening approached, the barbeques and backyard fireplaces were reduced to coals, picnic tables were loaded with empty dishes, piles of soggy paper plates and tipped soda cans, mothers were wilting in their lawn chairs with well-deserved glasses of iced tea or something stronger. The sparklers and firecrackers would be doled out to the older teens by watchful fathers; bottle rockets and 'zippers' would shoot up from various backyards and the neighbors would take turns zinging hot colors and flashes of light up into the night sky. We kids ran willy-nilly around the yards waving sparklers and screaming or blowing whistles.  It was a glorious hour of flaming flashing phantasm, all orchestrated with the hoots and hollers and admonitions from mothers and the laughing of fathers and big brothers. And then, the noise of celebration would subside and we were left with the last crackle of coals in our backyard firplace.

Our family would toast marshmallows and quiet down from all the excitement. Quietly, we'd recount the highlights of the day and stop, now and then, to listen to other neighbor families doing the same thing. The buzz and whine of mosquitoes would begin to fill the air until, finally, we'd be driven into the house.  You could hear screen doors slam shut for the night, and we kids flopped like limp lettuce into bed to fall asleep to the sound of crickets chirping, Junebugs slamming their heads against the window screens and the occasional low chuckle from a downstairs bedroom. Another 4th of July was gloriously spent and the rest of the of the long hot summer lay ahead.