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Sunday, November 28, 2010

On Grandmothers

Gramma. Nana. Gram. I never had one, myself, so I have no role model and no memories of sugar cookies. My children's paternal grandmother was warm and welcoming—an excellent grandmother who would take them blackberry picking and cook wonderful Southern meals for them. My own mother was not particularly interested in her grandchildren, presumably because her six had pretty much exhausted her.


What should a grandma do? 1) Sit on the floor and play blocks without ever saying, "Now I have to leave to go do (whatever). You just play by yourself." 2) Play the nighty-night game over and over and over without changing a word until he tires of it, not you. (In truth, you were tired of it after the third repetition.) 3) Walk at a child's pace without ever saying, "Come on! Hurry! We have to hurry now!" 4) Give unlimited cuddles. 5) Play "monster Nana" until he suddenly becomes really frightened and says, "No monster Nana. Just Nana." And then you stop being a monster. 6) Help him to move the cello bow while you play Twinkle-Twinkle.


What else? Be available. Be aware. Be in the moment with him (and how good is that for you as well?!). Listen. Slow down. Don't rush him. Don't have an agenda. Be there. Be there for him.


The final instruction for being a good grandmother is to make sugar cookies and put them in a big ceramic cookie jar shaped like a cat.



Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of the WHAT?

I've got to get this off my chest. Batten down the hatches for a small rant.


Have you noticed that otherwise excellent authors and journalists are now freely using the phrase "one of the only . . ."? Think about this. A restaurant, for example, can be "the only restaurant that serves a certain dish," or it can be "one of the few restaurants that serve a certain dish". But it can't be "one of the only restaurants. . ." Really, it can't.


I don't approve of defacing library books, but if I see that phrase once more I'm going to get out the red pen.


I'll admit that my intermittent concern for the difference between "lie" and "lay" (and their respective principal parts) is too nit-picky for most people. I'm willing to let that drop. But "one of the only" is such an offense against clear thinking that it has to be stopped before it spreads.


If you are one of those who use that phrase, I'm not demanding a public confession. I just want you to stop it!

Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hog Capital of the World

Two years ago, our friends the Smiths admitted that they ate dinner in front of the TV. I was shocked. My husband and I always sat at the dining room table, providing us with an opportunity to talk, even on those evenings when we didn't take advantage of it.


But did you ever notice that discovering how someone else lives gives you tacit permission to do the same? Thus, over the space of several months, we began to take a tray upstairs to the small den and to eat, plates on knees, while watching the screen. This happened with no acknowledgment. We never discussed the fact that what seemed to be our principled decision to eat in the dining room was so casually subverted.


I need to say that we don't watch "TV." We watch a 1930s movie (last night it was Mae West and Cary Grant) or a BBC costume drama. We've seen all of Jane Austen's novels as filmed by the BBC in the 1970s, as well as "Middlemarch", which I have more than once tried and failed to read in its original novel form. So we eat to the beat of high culture, not the networks' latest sitcom.


Recently, just as we had begun to eat our spaghetti (awkward as the dickens to eat from your lap), my brother Jerry called from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Jerry is laconic, but that evening he was delightfully chatty. I abandoned my cooling spaghetti and turned away from the paused shot on the TV screen showing Mae West as a lion tamer. Talking to Jerry is both pleasurable and rare.


Jerry loves to cook and he told me that recently he had bought a pork shoulder roast for a family dinner. As he removed the plastic wrapper from the supermarket meat package, he noticed the sticker saying, "Indiana pork." And then, in smaller print, the words "Product of Delphi, Indiana." Our home town, Delphi, Indiana, has reached the world stage.


It used to be that the near-by town of Flora, Delphi's rival for county seat, called itself, "Hog Capital of the World"—and proclaimed that honor on the revolving bank sign at the town's one stoplight. Now, apparently, Delphi has eclipsed Flora and is distributing its self-referenced pig parts at least as far as a supermarket in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


Today New Hampshire, tomorrow the world! Go, Delphi!


Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Being Thrifty

The era of thrift is returning, but it'll still be a while before those 40-somethings start darning their socks. For me, of course, the era of thrift never left. Some part of me still follows the guidelines of "How to Live on Practically Nothing" a book that was my bible during graduate school and then again when I was on my own with three kids in Denver. Roz Chast, the New Yorker cartoonist, once showed a woman hanging washed plastic bags on her clothesline. The tag was something like, "When the environmentally conscious meet the perennially thrifty." I saw nothing funny in that cartoon; that was my life.


Perhaps this background information will help you understand my story. I own four sweatshirts. Not one of them is less than ten years old. Although I've tried to keep the stains to a minimum, the cuff and waistband ribbings are looking very shabby, and the neck ribbing of my grey one is permanently soiled. So, though I hated the very idea of it, I decided to splurge: I would buy myself a new sweatshirt and pitch all four of my current ones. Would I actually be able to do that? To throw away four sweatshirts?


The search began. I hate to shop, but I did actually go into a shop to look for a sweatshirt. The closest things they had were zippered fleece garments of 100% polyester, made in China. I couldn't make myself buy one.


At first, I thought maybe I'd cut off and save the logos from the three of my four sweatshirts that have words on them. (The fourth one is the oldest, a coral-pink colour that I love, despite the fact that it has stretched to well beyond a flattering length.)


My black sweatshirt says, "Napoleon." I bought it in a fit of enthusiasm and chauvinism after we saw the premier of a locally written and produced Broadway-bound musical about Napoleon. It closed in London later (before Broadway), so I figure my sweatshirt is a collector's item.


My grey sweatshirt is from my home town, bought in 2004 when I attended my fiftieth high school reunion. In appliqu├ęd black and gold cursive, it says, "Delphi Oracles." I keep it not from nostalgia but from the still-unrealized hope that some day someone will say, "Why do you have a sweatshirt cheering on the Greek seers?"


And the purple sweatshirt, the one with the tattered ribbing, says, "Basketry Focus 1995," a souvenir of the international conference of basket makers that our local Basketry Network hosted all those years ago. I keep it—well, why do I keep it? To remind me, perhaps, of the ragged cuticles I sported during those five years when I made baskets from dyed and dampened reeds.


So you can see why, despite their shabbiness now, I am a bit reluctant to replace any of these with some polyester, made-in-China upstart. I marched all of them into the sewing room and attacked them with my best fabric scissors. Off came the black ribbing. Without a qualm I lopped off the sleeve cuffs of all four shirts. The neck ribbing of my Delphi Oracles shirt is now in the trash.


Some people, before undertaking this drastic surgery, might have gone to the fabric cupboard to check the supplies. I know I have several lengths of ribbings left from a period 15 years ago when I sewed with knits. But I actually have no idea at all what I will use—what colors, what widths—to refurbish these old sweatshirts. So for the moment they sit on the cutting table, naked without their ribbings but open to any and all expectations of new life. Soon there will be a renaissance of sweatshirts on my shelf, logos intact, testaments to my thrift, ingenuity, and just plain pig-headedness.



Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor