Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Place #2

We all know what our Happy Places reside. That refuge of solitude (maybe) when things are going astray and we need a moment to catch our breaths, calm down, breath deeply. Even just anticipating the trip to such a place brings about a peace. And a happy place can be more than just a physical place, it can be a state of mind with our imagination being the vehicle of transport. And it does not necessarily have to be a place but a tangible item to grasp in both hands. It can be as simple as just being with someone. Or day dreaming.

The best thing about happy places is that they are just that, places of escape that make us happy. Bring a smile and feeling of well being.

The second happy place that I have decided to commit to this blog is The Library. As long as I can remember, since my Mother is a librarian, I have felt an awe of libraries. The first one brings to memory the smell of musty books, dark tomes that were hidden in the upstairs dusty high ceilings ancient building of down town. This place would never do for my Mom, so she organized and championed a renovation (some people more than likely cursed my Mom due to a library tax increase) that resulted in a comfortable refuge, a learning center, a place of gatherings and children's hour, open later and I dare say revitalized a little bit of downtown.

I found myself standing in an aisle of the downtown branch of The Big City with eyes closed trying to remember the name of an author my brother mentioned as an excellent writer of Civil war fiction. Try as I may to empty my mind so that the elusive name would just POP in, I could not reel it in. I read a trick was to think of a place concentrate. I found myself laying on the front yard lawn of the first house my parents purchases. I had my hands behind my head and was stating at the blue sky and the white billowing clouds as they crossed over head. I could feel the soft grass under my arms and the smell, oh the smell of clover. I was astonished that I dragged this memory out of ....nowhere! So astonished that I could not complete the exercise which consists of then counting up 30 steps and then throwing open a door. What you are looking for (trying to remember) will be on the other side of the door.

It was too sweet a memory to let go of, so I began to browse the titles to the left of my head. I was in the "M" section and laid my hand on "At Play In the Fields of the Lord" by Peter Matthiessen. "I'll be damned" I though to myself, "He writes fiction too?". I added it to the small stack I was taking home.

I began to read the novel and halfway through it I realized this story, written in 1965, reminded me of the books that I would sneak (or so I thought) out of the library under the discriminating eye of my Mother. Actually, it was fairly easy, as she was confident that our Catholic upbringing and her unfaltering faith would lead us to the correct books for our young minds. This is how I was able to read Peyton Place, Joy in the Morning, Our Crowd etc. at a very tender age.

APITFOTL was much like those books. Well written, great story, characters that haunted your non-reading state, people you cared for and hoped that maybe you were a little bit like them. The prose was fabulous...."we were like butterflies pinned to the frames of our mortality...." (something like that) and there were missionaries and mercenaries, good and evil, nakedness and South American natives. How I would have loved this book at 12. Not quite understanding the human emotions, the driving hungers and searches for meaning and salvation, but I would look forward to the day when it would all make sense.

This is what I love about the library, always have and why I always carry a book around with me much to my husbands chagrin. I raise my eyes from the written page and respond to his criticisms of my inattentiveness of his channel surfacing!! I shake my head at him, for why would I ever compare re-runs of Combat and The Rifle Man with a masterpiece such as APITFOTL?

The library is my escape.

The library is a magic carpet.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If it's Tuesday, it's Hamburger Night

This afternoon I had to go to the Post Office (return Netflix) and I thought I would swing by Walmart and pick up some sulphur for the dreaded black spot's on my roses. I approached Walmart from the west, I usually swoop in from the east, I zoomed right past the entrance! So, off to Miejer I went because not only will they have the sulphur (could not find it) but they continue to carry the Yoplait Whipped Chocolate Mousse I am addicted to. I curse Walmart for dropping it because Miejer charges $.21 more for it. Damn you Walmart!

Then to ALDI for the $5.99 bag of 3lb frozen chicken and $1.99 gallon of milk vrs. the $6.79 and $2.50.

My shopping habits have begun to change due to the rapidly climbing grocery prices! I now read the newspaper and chase the sales when I'm able and or in the vicinity. I can hardly afford my Coconut Rum anymore! It too has gone up in price forcing me to purchase the economy size 1.75 liter which in some ways is very very bad.

I happened to catch a television program in Memphis addressing the growing problems of limited income families making ends meet in regard to grocery shopping. That was where I was hipped to ALDI. I was also informed about a program called ANGEL FOOD that operated in and around Memphis. On a lark, I looked it up and found they have many locations in Kentucky and Indiana close to my home. Alas, I have not been able to take advantage of the great program, where you receive a truck load of food for $30.

It would be no problem for me to eat whatever is in the "box" for the month because of my Mother and our menu's while I was growing up and a captive in her house.

My Mom is a very educated person. Long story cut short, my Mom is the youngest of her siblings and very smart. She was the scholar of the family and her sister Maura did all the cooking cleaning etc. while Mom studied and did all sorts of astounding stuff like graduating from high school at 16, College at 19 and then received her Masters from Columbia after her mother whisked her off to Ireland for a year.

In other words, my Mom never learned to cook.

Our menu's never deviated from week to week, except when she was feeling anemic then we got the dreaded liver and onions.

Monday was Hot dog night. Hot dogs boiled in a ause pan on the stove and served with buns and mashed potatoes and green beans from a can. Chocolate milk with raw egg for the boys, milk for me and jello for dessert.

Tuesday, hamburgers and french fries. The hamburgers were the frozen kind that came in a box that you took a knife to and separate. French fries were also the frozen string variety served in a wooden bowl. Maybe a can of corn or celery and carrots boiled together.

Wednesday night was meat loaf night. Greasy and made with egg and crushed crackers. Green beans from a can and mashed potatoes.

Thursday was left over night.

Friday was spaghetti night! And maybe some fried shrimp, which she also made in a beat up sauce pan and sometimes turned black but was still a delicacy to me! If there was no smoking shrimp, there was tuna fish. No garlic bread, maybe some toast with butter. No mashed potatoes, though there was jello for desert.

Saturday she worked at the library and Nana made dinner when she lived across the street from maybe 1967 - 1972. Then we had chicken! Yea Nana! She made Waldorf salad with apple cut up in the lettuce. And mashed potatoes. She also made apple turnovers and sometimes cherry. The new fangled kind that you purchased in the dairy section and included was a small bag of icing. Oh I still remember how we looked forward to Nana!

Sunday was always special and we would have something different like a stew or a pot roast. Mashed potatoes and more veggies from a can. And maybe fruit cocktail from the can. And if it was Easter or someones birthday that week, a cake.

We were all skinny kids. We all had to eat what was on our plates because there were starving children in China. Sometimes my brother T. had to be restrained in his chair, as was his habit to slide down his chair and try to escape under the table. He was caught every time. Unfortunately I had to sit across the table from him and I will never forget the faces he made eating mashed potatoes. Like he was going to barf.

Every night except Friday.

We laugh about it now. It is still a good joke among us kids.

Back to my point, if I get liver in the Angel Food Box I can handle it. Just like the old days.