The Memorial Day Entry

Or as we call it around these parts of the soybean field, “Monday.”

A very hot one at that with temps reaching well over 80 before 8 AM. Despite all good intentions to get in a 45 minute walk this morning, it grew too hot for both Oakley and me. We bailed at the 20 minute mark. We made one run outside for the most personal of personal reasons since then. He’s taken up camp in front of the fan used to augment the air conditioning and seems uninterested in moving again until dinner.

Hubby is building something in the garage. I have no idea what he’s working on, but as long as he’s happy, it’s all good.

I haven’t done very much today. I’ve played on line; read new-to-me books; watched a repeat of a Swedish spy thriller. The extreme heat precluded work on the garden. Again. It is what it is. The weather should break on Wednesday. Maybe then.

Both weekend days’ highs climbed well into the 90s, too.  Last night, we decided to go to our favorite used book store (20% off everything+selling a bunch of books=a lot of fun for both of us), then out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants across the street in lieu of trying to cook out.

When we turned onto the north-south state route where said attractions lie, we noticed several police cars and IDOT trucks parked at intervals. A bad accident? A sinkhole? Road blocks to check for registration and seat belt usage (and a discreet check for alcohol use)? Nope. The pavement had buckled and shattered in several locations from the heat, necessitating navigation by the officers so all could drive around them in an orderly, safe manner. Tricky on a Sunday night, but had this happened on that stretch of road on a workday, traffic would have been backed up to Kentucky and Wisconsin.

To my best of my recollections,  this kind of weather never happened when I was younger, much younger. There were warmer than average Memorial Day weekends, certainly, but with highs reaching into the low 80s, not pushing 100. Usually, we could go on a picnic with our grandparents and a couple of other stray relatives. Or have everyone over for a cook-out.

Memorial Day is a much quieter affair now. Distance, logistics, and so on have bumped it to the wayside, save for a picnic when the weather is half-decent.  Personally, I don’t care driving on this day, or July 4, or Labor Day. Parades and observations of the two former with no good escape routes in our little town  snarl traffic into dreadlocks. Labor Day just involves keeping a sharp eye out for cops who want to pad municipal coffers at the expense of careless drivers.

I just would rather stay home, thank you. We have left overs from last night for dinner; we have air conditioning; our basic needs are met. WFMT played selections from Gershwin, Porter, and Sousa. We don’t need to be anywhere, so we will simply celebrate the comfort of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picnics and Remembrances

 Today’s temps are expected to land a fingertip from 90. Oakley and I finished our sweaty panting morning walk by 8:15. Neither of us do well in heat, so a picnic is out of the question. Perhaps an afternoon jaunt to one of the local dog-friendly stores will be in order this afternoon.  Otherwise, we will limit outdoors time to that required for canine hygienic purposes.

However, it’s Memorial Day. Remember the ones who lost their lives in service. Remember the ancestors and loved ones who went before. And celebrate their memory with a picnic or cookout.

We mostly did cookouts at our house. Dad (Army, medic, served in Operation Fairwing to help keep Adolph and friends from establishing a beachhead near Rio; later stationed at a rehab hospital for returning soldiers where he met my mom) presided over the grill. Fallen sticks from the hickory tree in the back yard  elevated the burgers or chicken from postwar chow to gourmet delights for the ages. He didn’t do anything really special otherwise, just a dash of salt, a touch of pepper. That was it. Mom and Grandma did the potato salad and Jell-O and some other sides with pie for dessert. Kind of like Thanksgiving, only with lighter foods and warmth, usually.

That usually happened on Monday. The weekend was filled with running Grandma to the cemetery where her parents and several siblings (she was second oldest of nine and the last one standing) were interred so she could pay her respects to them while tending their graves. Sometimes we went up to St. Louis, a small town an hour or so north of Lansing where my grandfather had grown up to decorate and pay respects there. A few flowers, a little clean-up work, and all was as it should be.

We also tended the grave of the stillborn  premature child who should have lived to be my other big sister. I poured the water over the storm cloud colored flat stone while Mom scrubbed the dirt accumulated over the past year from the outline of the lamb and the letters BABY GAY APRIL X 1957 as gently as she would have her child’s cheek. Why didn’t she make it, Mama?…She was just too little and too weak, honey. More water over there, please…The small pot of pink geraniums were centered just above the stone. Why did they just name her Baby?…She wasn’t alive when she was born and new babies were just listed as Baby with the parents’ last name….What did you want to name her?…long pause…Pauline….Mom picked up the empty milk carton and wad of used paper towels in one hand, then held the other out to me. I took it, and we walked back to the station wagon. That makes me kind of sad….Me too, honey, but now I have you…She ever so gently touched the tip of my nose with the tip of her finger…and you make me very happy.  

Mom, Dad, and (yes, I say her name) Pauline rest together now. Mom on one side, Dad the other, and Pauline in between them. I haven’t been up to visit the cemetery since my dad’s burial. I just don’t do graves myself; I prefer to remember my parents doing what they did best: Dad grilling or cooking, Mom at the piano playing Debussy. There is no way of knowing who or what Pauline would have been.

Except very much loved, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

 

Nothing Says Memorial Day Like a Bowl of Soup

We had a cold, damp Memorial Day yesterday. As in turn the heat on cold. Wrong on so many levels. 

I made soup for lunch. I found the recipe in More with Less, one of my go-to cookbooks. It’s a compilation of recipes published by the Mennonite Church along with some gently thought provoking reflections on the world’s food supply. The Vietnamese chicken soup sounds austere, but is oh-sooo-good on a grey damp day.

My spin on it: cook enough pasta in chicken broth laced with garlic and soy sauce. I used whole wheat spaghetti. I see no reason why you couldn’t use rice or spelt or some other kind. Cook until it’s kind of mushy and thick. Put in lots of black pepper and some shredded leftover chicken. You can garnish with a few sliced onion tops. I drizzled on a little sesame oil. It hit the spot as I watched the rain fall.

It was also a way to remember my dad. He had a gift for soup making, and I’m sure that my efforts pleased him almost as much as the chicken that I made on the rotisserie on Sunday. Indoors due to chilly dampness, but still delicious. 

My favorite station played Bach yesterday as I lunched. My mom was a classically trained pianist, and Bach ranked her top five favorite composers. I held pictures of her practicing at the organ at church where she filled in as organist, and images of Dad at the stove. Somehow, it seemed more appropriate and more of what they would have really wanted than making a five-hour drive to weep at their graves.