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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fingerwagging and Email Ease

When I was in grade school, that little two-room Catholic school, shaming was a big part of student interaction. We weren't shy about naming it. The procedure was this: you (probably a plural "you", since shaming was often a group activity) saw someone transgressing. (And in a Catholic school there were so very many ways to transgress.) You extended the left index finger and stroked it, from the knuckle toward the tip, with the right index finger, over and over. And while you did this you said one of two things (or maybe even both): either "ah-mm, ah-mm" or "shame-y, shame-y." Sometimes this was followed by "I'm gonna tell!" But the hand gesture and the ah-mm, ah-mm were what evoked the shame.


I don't make this a frequent topic of conversation, but I have never met anyone who knows these particular ways to shame a classmate or a sibling. Was it peculiar to Indiana? To Delphi, Indiana? To Catholics, who seem to have a lock on shame and guilt?


So deeply ingrained is this that to this day I find myself doing the thing with the index fingers when, as a pedestrian, I am endangered by a transgressing driver (e.g., one pushing the boundaries of the left-turn signal and impinging on the pedestrian's right to walk). "Shame-y, shame-y" I will mutter as I stroke my left index finger with my right. When I do it I feel a definite connection with tiny Sicilian nonnas who sign to inflict or avoid the evil eye.


Lately I'm finding it hard to answer emails. Factual ones are not a problem ("Want to have lunch?" gets a simple yes or no). But others require a more nuanced answer and I am more and more aware of the importance of Tone in emails, to the extent that I'm often paralyzed in my search for an appropriate answer.


Since my email aim is to answer and file my messages asap, thus leaving my inbox sparkling clean, I'm confused about this reluctance to commit myself—aha! The word "commit" appeared out of the blue, and that may be the root of the problem. Once I write and send an answer, my words are there to be read and, at worst, misinterpreted. (As you might imagine, Twitter offers an even more intense version of this dilemma and a tweet is thus that much harder to write. As we all know, it's a good idea to take care when composing a tweet and not covfefe them off without thinking.)


I do have a solution to the problem. I keep hesitating to answer a particular email and then, after a couple of weeks, I reread it and see that I can safely not answer it at all. So I just file it away, thus removing it from the inbox.


Is commitment the only problem here? I have several friends with whom I regularly exchange newsy and/or thoughtful emails. I sometimes find myself reluctant to answer because the story I would be telling there is something I prefer to save for more public use rather than spontaneously sharing it with my friend. That selfish hoarding must be some kind of sin, probably worthy of shaming: ah-mm, ah-mm, ah-mm!


Copyright © Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Changing It All Up

Willy-nilly—that is, whether or not I want it—I am in the process of changing it all up. Rather: IT is in the process of changing ME up. I'm at sixes and sevenses, no longer who I once was but unsettled as to who I might be becoming.


This is both good news and bad news, as one might imagine. Although I have talked about it in the past, I don't really enjoy being in transition. Maybe some people do, though that's hard to believe. Remember the butterfly, I used to advise: the caterpillar disappears into the cocoon and emerges as butterfly, yes. But while cocooned, the caterpillar becomes nothing but goo. Sticky, formless goo. Cut open the cocoon in the midst of the transformation and you destroy the process, destroy the prospective butterfly, destroy the erstwhile caterpillar.


This is to remind myself to stay calm. Don't rush it. In the due course of time it will all become clear, what your butterfly will be like.


In the meantime, I find myself, for example, at the Davisville subway station wearing two different shoes on my feet: on my right foot my navy-blue two-strap "dress Birkenstocks", some twenty years old. And on my left foot my three-strap Clark sandals, ten years younger, with the heel strap that makes them safe for wearing outside the house. I never wear my Birkenstocks when I'll be walking, so how did that one get on my foot? I have no answer.


Perhaps even more disturbing is that I stared at my feet for a full minute before I could figure out the problem. Well, I spent the rest of that day mismatched in public. Not exactly engulfed in shame (the shoes did look similar at a quick glance) but wondering where it is that I'm going. What will this part of the butterfly look like?


The goo of my cocoon seems to be filled with lethargy. Imagine the plight of the lifetime Capricorn do-er who no longer wants to do. No project jumps into my head, begging to be accomplished. I'm good for the bare minimum: the laundry (especially when I can hang out the clothes on hot sunny days) and the meals. Oh yes. Also the watering of the plants in the front and back yards.


This is the extent of my activity. Who am I?

I have begun receiving The Guardian on my email every morning. This might not be the best way to start my day. Try as I might to click on only the lightest of news items, I am also drawn to articles that our local press doesn't mention. And I'm not always happy about these stories, which otherwise would have passed me by.


This morning, for example, there were two articles on the Australian scandal at a refugee centre, one of the long-term holding points (I think this one is on an off-shore island) where refugees languish for years without hope. Today's stories concerned the abuse of children at these places. Children. Refugee children. The least powerful people on the earth. No source of comfort. No protection. Who would want to add to their misery and despair?


So how, said my Capricorn self, am I supposed to deal with this? Am I to picket the Australian Consulate here to let them know that someone (one person) is upset? Probably not the best way to change things.


This brings to mind the varioud abbeys and convents where reclusive monks and nuns devote entire days to prayer. Prayers for the unloved and unwanted of this earth. And how effective has this been? Who knows? Maybe without the nuns' prayers things would be even worse.


So is that my answer?


I sit here in my comfortable, carefree life, nothing more to worry me than where my transition is leading me. How do I connect with the rest of the world? Children are being badly treated all over the world. But Australia? Can we not count on them to do the right thing?


What is the right thing, other than to protect the powerless?


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Forgotten Times

Fret not over what you have forgot.

The passing of the years is not your doing.

No blame to you for that.

Nor for losing the memory of those passed years.

In fact, the downside might be the memories retained:

of drama, omissions, transgressions.

What perverse mind keeps hold of these

and loses the times of joy?


The forgotten times are gone

so let them go.

Fill up the space they leave

with this month's cozy feelings,

this week's friendly encounters,

today's bursts of bright orange and red.


Hang on to what now is,

not what once was.

Or better still, forget

the hanging-on business altogether

(and if you know anything it is how to forget)

and simply observe your life it flows past.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Legs, legs, legs. My father and mother were both tall and long-limbed. And so are all of the children. The children who range in age from 83 down to 68. Those children.


When my father listened to the radio, which he did every lunch-time (the news and then "Ma Perkins," a 15-minute radio soap opera), he would sit in his oak chair at the head of the table, his elbow on his knee, forehead leaning on his hand. His legs were always double-crossed. That is, he would cross his left leg over the right at the thigh (skinny thighs) and then hook his left foot around the right calf, making a leg-twist that must have felt very comfortable to him, since that was how he sat when at the table, after a meal. In the living room, on an upholstered chair or sofa, he didn't double-twist his legs.


When a niece got married in Boston some twenty years ago, all six of us flew to Boston from our various homes across the continent and overseas. Since it was rare for the six of us to be together, we made it a point to take pictures. In one of them, three of us are sitting outside on a park bench, with the other three standing behind. The three seated ones are all doing (with no prompting) the family double-leg twist. After that picture we changed places, the standing ones sitting, the sitting ones standing---and again the three seated ones are all doing the leg twist.


Nature or nurture? Who can tell? But you gotta have long, skinny legs to do it.



Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Fourth of July Parade

The float we stood on was exactly the right height, raising us some three feet above the crowds that lined the four sides of the town square. Ours was not the only float in the July 4 parade. Nor was our town's parade unique. In this most chauvinistic of patriotic cultures, it was an unwritten tradition that every small Midwestern town should occasionally offer its citizens a parade to celebrate the birth of the nation.


We had decorated our float: pompoms of coloured tissue paper and twisted ribbons of stretchy crepe paper. We were all students at Marilyn Smith's dance studio. Every small town had a dance studio run by a woman who had herself studied at a small town dance studio and maybe even in some big city. If she was lucky, she might have had a minor career dancing in road companies or summer stock. And now, married and living in another small town, this dancer would abandon her dreams of fame and fortune and would open a dance studio to foster other little girls' dreams of dancing their way to fame and fortune.


There were eight of us in this class. We had been with Marilyn since we were pre-pubescent, and we were now fifteen and sixteen. Accomplished dancers all. (I can still do awkward plies and releves in all five positions. And I can show you the opening moves of our recital piece choreographed to "Cruising down the River." But you might not want to see that.)


The theme of our float that year was Hawaii, which was at that time a candidate for statehood, not that we landlocked innocents had a clue as to the politics and wider implications of the issue.


In honour of the occasion Marilyn had taught us a hula dance. We wore grass skirts from a costume emporium in the state capital. Around our necks were colourful leis of plastic flowers that prickled the back of our necks. We wore halter tops and it's safe to say that we wore shorts under our grass skirts for modesty's sake.


The record player on our float repeated "Lovely Hula Hands" throughout the length of the parade route, and we hula'd as sexily as we knew how (some of us knew more about this than others).


The photo of us on the float in our grass skirts resurfaces about once a year when I'm scrabbling through the photo boxes in search of something entirely different. And there we are: the Crosby sisters, tall and beautiful, with black hair and bright blue eyes; Glenda Weckerly, who moved to Lafayette the year after the parade and who died young, I heard; and me. I'll have to wait for the next appearance of the photo to remind me who the others were. It's sobering to remember that any of that group who are still alive are now eighty years old. Do we still know how to hula?


We loved being on that float, even though, powered as it was by someone's tractor, its progress was jerky, not smooth. The needle skipped on the record and the jolts occasionally made us stumble, ruining our fancy hula footwork. We were the hit of the parade, innocently showing off our nubile bodies to the whole county. I say we were the hit, but I have no memory of what the other floats looked like. They might all have represented Hawaii in one way or another, but ours was the only one with real live authentic hula dancers, even if we were, as Nancy White used to sing about Joe Clark, welded at the hip.


Happy Fourth of July (coming on Tuesday).


A retroactive Happy Canada Day (yesterday).


And let's have a big round of applause for small-town parades everywhere!


Copyright © 2017 Ann Tudor
Food blog: