Thanksgiving 2017

The Tuna Fish Thanksgiving

Some of you may have seen this before. It is from a post on The Chocolates of My Mind from a couple of years ago. I revisit here as we approach another Thanksgiving holiday. These memories are part of the warp and woof of the fabric of my life. I am fond of remembering them.

As this old guy sits here on the prairie and the Thanksgiving holiday nears, a melancholy wave rolls over me. From my humble Rollohome I sit here with my Siamese friend, Brandy and reflect on Thanksgivings past.

This holiday brings back images from other times. Some are images of the type of picture one might expect. There are the images of being home with family, a table groaning under the weight of the food associated with this most American of holidays, and sisters and brother all near and football on TV and after the feast, and a fair bit of wine and for some, naps.

Over the years, my Thanksgivings have been warm and times that I’ve enjoyed with family, going back to my days as a youngster, which basically ended in 1959 when I joined the Army, and would begin missing Thanksgiving at homes, at least at my parent’s home.

The first Thanksgiving I missed in Carrington was in 1959. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I was on KP duty at the mess hall at Fort Devens, MA. It was a Saturday, and as the end of the day was approaching, I noticed a chance to change the character of the upcoming holiday. One of our number was married and lived off post. So, as I was in the process of cleaning up and looking about the mess hall, I noticed a large number of chickens, and a supply of other food that could all go into the making of a Thanksgiving dinner.

Having seen that, I hatched a plan to steal a number of said chickens, along with a sheet pan of brownies, needed for desert, and some other food stuffs to help make our feast off post at our friends small apartment. I found a place outside of the mess hall where I could stash the food we were going to use for our own holiday meal.

I began to systematically wrap chickens and put all of our ill gotten goods out the back door of the mess hall, and when we were finished for the night, and under the cover of darkness, we loaded it into the car of our friend.

The following Thanksgiving Day, along with the appropriate amount of wine and spirits we all enjoyed a meal made even more delicious by our having pulled off the food theft that would become known, at least to us, as the “Great Thanksgiving Day Heist.”

Even at 19 years of age, we were showing signs of being able to improvise, something that, in the military, is valued, or so we thought. It was, as I reflect, a great Thanksgiving.

Now, fast forward to 1976. The years between 1959 and 1976 had been years of many Thanksgiving feasts with family and friends. In the meantime, I had been married, we had a son in 1974, and enjoyed many of those days with our own family.

Unfortunately, in 1976, those days would become memories, as I had become separated from my wife, Mary Ann, in October of that year. It was something that I had precipitated, and it changed the nature of the holiday for several years to come.

That year, on Thanksgiving Day, my brother Jerry, who was working on the ABM site near Nekoma, drove to Grand Forks, and we had Thanksgiving dinner at The Village Inn Pancake House on the west side of Grand Forks that afternoon.

As I recall, I had bacon, eggs, hash browns and later that day went to Whitey’s in East Grand Forks.

The following year, I was living in a small apartment at the back of a house, and when Thanksgiving rolled around again, I was wondering what I should do to mark the holiday this year. As I sat there alone in my small apartment, looking at the little black and white TV, like five inch screen little, I had to decide what I was going to eat for Thanksgiving.

Football was on the TV, and I had my fill of coffee, and that’s when it struck me. I would have a Tuna salad sandwich.
It was no ordinary Tuna salad sandwich. After I got done going through the cupboard, I had made what was the most memorable Tuna salad sandwich I had ever had.

After the sandwich, the game and a short nap, I went to Whitey’s, and I thought it was a fine Thanksgiving, all things considered.

The moral: No matter where you are, what your situation is, or how much you miss what you once had, you can always make yourself a killer Tuna salad sandwich and watch a football game, and be thankful you can do that.

To all who read this, my wish to you is to have a Thanksgiving to remember.

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“Where The Popsicles Are” 10/22/17

Thank you all so very much.

As you may have heard by now, Joanie’s story has found a place.

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It has been a long time coming, considering I have lived with this project since not long after she died.

The process of getting from there to here could best be illustrated by the following photos. They should give you an idea of what went into this story. This is where the process began.

Version 2

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The files, the proof books, the personal notes, the observations, and editing all went into the final product that is finally for sale on amazon.com. There will also be an eBook version of the story available in a couple of days, also on Amazon.

There was a time when I didn’t know if I would ever get to this spot, and had it not been for the generous support of so many of you I might never have been able to publish this book. I can’t thank you enough, and I will be forever grateful for that support.

As I’ve told many of you, I don’t know how this book will be received, all I do know for sure is that I did my best to tell a story about a remarkable woman and her struggle with a deadly disease. Whether I have succeeded or not I will leave to the judgement of others.

My job now is to help her story find a wider audience, an audience that I think is out there.

Again, my sincere thanks to all of you who believed in Joanie, and trusted me to tell her story.

Take care, and be well.

Bob

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Labor Day 2017

I wrote this  on a Labor Day weekend, a few years ago and today, on the eve of this weekend that signals the end of summer, I sit here and reflect on what those weekends meant to me.

Melancholy has a way of creeping into my brain on the eve of this weekend. On this night, chances are Joanie and I would have been on the road headed for Minneapolis and St. Paul with a stop in St. Cloud at Joe and Joni’s.

I read this again, and really couldn’t think of much I would change about it, so I post it again as a reflection on happier times.

Both Joanie and my youngest sister, Joni, are gone now, and I think that adds to the bittersweet remembrance that comes to me every year about this time.

A Reflection.

It was our weekend for years.

On a Thursday or Friday, we’d point the car toward I-94, bring along some cassette tapes, pick up some coffee and not look back
It was Labor Day weekend and it was ours.

Joanie wanted to go to the Renaissance Fair. I’d never been to see it, so that was the plan. I thought it would be a one time deal when it started in the early 80’s, but it went on well into the 90’s.

The trip became something special to us. We both loved Minneapolis/St. Paul, and how the pace of the life slowed down there on a holiday weekend.

We’d stop on our way down at Mabel Murphy’s in Fergus Falls, and often follow that with stopping in St. Cloud at Joe and Joni’s place. Joni was my younger sister.

After a night there, it was on to the Cities, and for years after that first trip, we would leave Joni with this, “We’ll meet you by the bear at noon.” The bear was this huge carved statue, located in an open area, not far from the main entrance to the grounds, and we would be there on Sunday.

Our Saturday’s in the Cities were spent just roaming around with no agenda. We’d look for new restaurants or bars to drop into. We’d find places like St. Anthony’s on Main where there might be live music on a plaza, and we’d park there until searching out somewhere else. In the evening, we treat ourselves to a good dinner, or find a place like Guadalaharry’s to settle in for some margaritas, food and fun with the staff.

Our Saturday nights always ended with a Bailey’s at the hotel bar.

Sunday morning, it would be bagels and coffee, and the Tribune at Byerly’s in Edina, and then it would be time to head to Shakopee and the Renaissance Fair, and the first thing we did when we got there was to get some flowers for her hair.

We would meet my sister Joni by the bear, and at least one time she brought her daughter Audrey with her. She would get flowers for her hair as well, and then we’d be off to wander the expanse of the grounds.

We came to love those Sunday’s at the Renaissance, for they were a riot of color, sound, humor, characters, music, food and drink. We loved the characters like Rat Catcher, Grave Digger, Puke and Snot, The Pickle Man. We got to know places like Folkstone Well, Bad Manor. Tree Top Round, Upson Downs and all of the various stages around the grounds.

The food was good, as was the music, and Joanie would spend a lot of time wandering through the various shops. We also collected a very large collection of ceramic wine goblets over the years, and I still have them. Each one has the year we got them painted on them.

We stayed each Sunday we were there until they closed, and one of the highlights we looked forward to at the close of the day was the dance. There in a large open area, they would bring out some big kettle drums, and members of the cast and crew of the fair would begin pounding out a rhythm, and soon, in the late, warm afternoon light, an unseemly sight began to take place. Cast members, vendors, customers of the fair were gathered in a circle and soon people were dancing with an abandon that was infectious. I even managed to get Joanie to join in a couple of times. It was always a feel good way to end our day at the Renaissance.

So on the eve of this Labor Day weekend, I sit here sipping some wine from one of those many Renaissance goblets, and I think back on those weekends that were ours.

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I think back on how much fun it was to go to the Fair, to get some flowers for their hair.

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A Purse Full of Memories

If anyone has any doubt about why I am trying to get this done, read this. I wrote this some time ago, and it was published in The Lincoln Underground, a literary periodical out of Lincoln NE.

A Purse Full of Memories.

I ran across your purse today, while rummaging through old boxes.

It was heavy. Still filled with touchstones that filled your life.

I felt the warm leather of the bag and the years since you’ve been gone seemed to melt away.

I gave you that dark brown, leather Coach bag, the one with the flap over the opening, on one long ago Christmas, because it fit you. Elegant, understated, classic.

You wore it well from your shoulder, even when you crammed more into it than it was built for, but it still looked good.

I opened it, and there were your glasses, your overstuffed check book, notes scribbled on scraps of paper containing names and numbers of people who once mattered to you enough to scribble their names and numbers on scraps of paper. For what reasons, I do not know.

I found the talismans, the crystal, the cross and the worry stone, you carried with you during those most difficult times of your life, and the hope you carried with you in that dark brown, leather Coach bag. There was also a card that went with one called, “The Cross in My Pocket.” I never knew if you read it, but I knew if you had, you believed in what it said.

There was a note, handwritten on a yellow piece of paper torn from a small legal tablet, that was a thank you note you were composing to someone who was very close to you and who had been generous and supportive during those dark times. I don’t know who it was intended for, but it could have been any number of people. The words were yours, and they seemed to come to life off the page.

There was a tin of mints from someone’s wedding in 2007, a wedding you were not able to attend. The decal on the cover read “Jim and Kirsten, April 21, 2007.

There was a pocket pack of Kleenex, like the ones you used to shred when the going was tough.

When I see that purse, I think of that snowy day in Minneapolis. We were there in early December for a doctor’s appointment of some kind, and we had an extra day all to ourselves.

You wanted to go down Nicollet mall so you could stop at Dayton’s, or Macy’s, or whatever it was called then, and go to Crate and Barrel for some Christmas tree decorations. Then we walked over to Hennepin Avenue, and found a restaurant we hadn’t been to before.

The lunch rush was gone, and we were pretty much alone there. We stayed as long as we wanted, drank some wine, had some flatbread with Asiago cheese and talked as if we had nothing better to do that day, and we didn’t. When we saw it begin to fill up again, we knew we had been there long enough. We left and began the walk up Hennepin to find our way back to the car parked across from The Loon Cafe on 1st Avenue.

It had begun to snow lightly. It wasn’t that cold, but the huge snowflakes made it feel as if we were part of some giant, ethereal snow globe.

You were wearing that black wool coat with your red scarf, and that dark brown, leather Coach bag hung loosely from your shoulder, looking every bit the city girl that day, out with her friend. I carried the bags from Dayton’s or Macy’s or whatever it was called, and the bag from Crate and Barrel, in one hand, the other held yours.

The snow continued to fall, but we didn’t hurry. We weren’t cold at all. I think we were both entranced by the scene that winter day in the city, as if we were playing the parts in some romantic movie, of two carefree lovers out walking on a snowy afternoon during the holidays who were in love, and didn’t care who knew it.

I don’t know if you ever thought of that day the same way I did, nor do I know if you thought of that dark brown, leather Coach bag the same way I did, but I like to think you did.

Both of them looked good on you.

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Class Reunions: A Tonic for the Soul.

It’s summertime, and the season for vacations and reunions, class or family is upon us.

It is the time of the year when the North Dakota Tourism Department doesn’t have to advertise to bring people back to their home towns, or schools for get togethers, and it does provide a boost to hotels, restaurants, and bars, not to mention the spirits of those attending these.

Over the years I have gone to both family reunions, and class reunions. In the summer of 1998, I had spent a couple of days in Carrington for a class reunion, and came away with the thoughts that follow.

I wrote what follows for broadcast while working for a radio station in Bismarck, and was called upon at a later reunion to read this at a banquet of our classmates.

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You can’t go home again.” He was right of course, but what you can do is go back for a class reunion.

I recently attended the class reunion of the class of 1958 in Carrington.
It was the 40th for our class, and I found it to be a wonderful tonic for the soul.

I’ve been to others over the years that we’ve had, but the further out you go the better they get.

First, let’s take a quick look at the five and ten year reunions. Everyone comes to those just five or ten years out of high school wearing their achievements on their sleeves, trying to impress all with how well they’ve done in such a short time out in the adult world, and it’s true, some have done very well in that short time. So, you drink, you eat, have a picnic, dance, tell each other lies into the wee hours, announce your plans, and leave town not to think about such things for another ten or fifteen years.

Time passes. Life takes its toll, and comes now the 25 year reunion. Now they begin to be real fun. The pretensions of youth are sloughing off. The reality of middle age is setting in, and instead of wearing achievements on their sleeves, they are more than likely to have pictures of their children to show and to tell tales of how well their children are doing.

There is less pressure. Things are more relaxed, and I get the feeling that people really enjoyed spending time with each other under those circumstances. So, as before, you drink, you eat, you dance and talk to the wee hours, and the time for needing to impress is past. Come Sunday you hug your friends, say your good byes and leave town actually looking forward to doing it again in the future.

Now it’s time for the 40th. H.G. Wells could not have invented a better time machine as this one as I found out a couple of weeks ago in Carrington.

One minute I’m this fifty-something guy driving into town, not really knowing what to expect since I had seen a lot of my class mates in a long time. The next thing I know, we’re all 17 and 18 again.

The skin is smoother, The hair is all there and it’s not grey. The pounds have melted away, and all of the hope, enthusiasm, optimism and excitement of those halcyon days are back for a magical moment.

No matter that it’s not reality. This is a time to forget reality for a few hours and revel in the feeling that you haven’t aged, and neither has anyone else.

It was a special event. It was different than earlier ones in that now there are no pretensions. What you are, or were is no longer important. You are just who you are, and that is more than enough. Now you are more likely to see pictures of grandchildren as well.

As before, you drink, you eat, you dance, you talk to the wee hours and before you know it’s time for Sunday brunch.

Reunions like this one have a bittersweet flavor to them. It makes the emotions of the event a little more intense. It is bittersweet because you don’t want it to end to soon, but by noon on Sunday reality sets back in. There are bags to pack, places to go, things to do, obligations to be met. So you say goodbye to everyone, and everyone says we’ll do it all again in five years, and you know it may or may not happen. You do know this however, that if it does, it too, will be different, again.

Writer’s Note:
I wrote the above essay in the summer of 1998. Ten years later in the summer of 2008, I went back to Carrington for the 50th. It was different, again, as I suspected it would be. Joanie had died that spring, and that had an affect on me, but I still enjoyed the time there.

We had a good attendance and, though as before, we drank, we ate and talked, but we didn’t make it to the wee hours as we once had. That was okay, it was still a grand time.

Sunday still had that melancholy associated with leaving, knowing that your might never see some these friends again, but you say goodbyes and drive off, with only memories as your passenger for the trip back to Bismarck.

The class of ’58 did get together one time since the summer of 2008, but I wasn’t able to make it. Maybe the next time.

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