Monthly Archives: November 2010

Celebrating #25

Note: I wrote this in June. I’m trying to either post my drafts or delete them. It should have gone just before this post.

I vividly remember the days before my mom and dad’s 25th wedding anniversary.  I was just 23 and thought I was supposed to throw them a party. The reason I thought this was because when their friends, the Pasholks, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary their 5 kids planned it all.  At 23, I had no idea how to plan such an event, didn’t know who to talk to to ask for help, so didn’t do anything, except feel guilty about it. In the end, the Pasholks threw them a party and I didn’t attend, out of guilt.

Back then it seemed that people made a big deal about milestone anniversaries. Maybe they still do and we just don’t hang with the right crowd, but I don’t know of any of our friends who has had a party to celebrate.

We’re celebrating quietly tonight — Dean made reservations at Georgia Brown’s, a restaurant I’d not heard of, but sounds wonderful and the kids are joining us for dinner. At first I thought that it should just be Dean and me, but we have many years of going out alone ahead of us, I thought it would be nice if the kids came too.

Note: We had a nice time at Georgia Browns, but were not impressed with the food. It was nice hanging out as a family.

Ms P. and the Rats of NIH(M)

I’m a birder. A lazy birder, but a birder nonetheless. It is part of who I am and has  been for more than half of my life.

One huge aspect of birding for me is feeding the birds. I have many bird feeders — two Droll Yankee tube-like feeders: one serves up tiny nyger seed that the finches love and one doles out larger seed such as sunflower, cracked corn or safflower. I also have decorative bird feeders — one looks like a birch log, but is ceramic. Another looks like a church, with a roof and clear plastic sides which hold in the seed — which I am surprised has not been chewed apart by squirrels yet. Then there are the suet cages and nyger seed socks.

I don’t have all of these feeders up at the same time. That would be unwise in Bethesda. I’d be the crazy bird lady. Recently I had one Droll Yankee feeder filled with sunflower seed and one nyger sock in back by the bird bath and one nyger sock outside the attic window.

One day I noticed that the nyger sock in the backyard had a huge hole in it. I wondered what animal had made this hole. I suspected it was a squirrel, but knowing that squirrels don’t particularly care for nyger seed, I was more than a little worried we had another rodent problem.

A few days later I looked out the window and saw the culprit. A large brown Norway rat. It was just after dinner and this rat was helping him or herself to the nyger seed. It was actually kind of cute — if you forget all the bad rat stories. But I was dismayed. I thought we were done with these things.

Years ago we had rats in the ductwork of our addition. Dean and I both noticed a funky smell coming from the heating vents in the sun room — it reminded me of the elephant house. When we discovered that it was a nest of rats, I was horrified and would never ever have admitted our discovery to anyone. I was embarrassed and ashamed and it lowered my self-esteem for a while. Dean, being the son of a dairy farmer, took care of it and we hoped we were done with rats.

The following January, however, we came home from our annual Christmas in the Midwest trip to find a rat had gotten into our house and was trapped in a mousetrap behind our stove. Dean took care of it, too. I was ready to hire an exterminator, but Dean felt that he knew what to do as well as any exterminator, so I believed him.

The next year was the year of cicadas in our area and when the cicadas died out the entire neighborhood had a rat problem. It seemed that the rats were displaced from NIH because of construction there. They didn’t care where they lived because they had a bounty of cicadas for several weeks, but after the cicadas were done with their (very cool) life cycle in our area, the rats had nothing to eat, so became a nuisance. I finally lost the embarrassment I was feeling about the rat problem we’d had — especially since other neighbors were admitting to having had rats in previous years as well.

Everyone dealt with the rats in their own ways, some hired exterminators while others, like Dean, took care of it themselves. The worst part of the rat problem for me, however, was having to give up feeding the birds. I had a slight meltdown when I realized I’d have to do this, but Dean said that maybe it would not be permanent. I held on to that hope.

We went a few years with no apparent rat problems — I even was able to feed the birds again until this year when I saw the rat eating the nyger seed.

So now I’ve had to store my bird feeders for good. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to feed birds in the backyard again — certainly not at this house. I think I can still feed them at the attic windows — but it’s not really the same. I’ll not be seeing any more Rose Breasted Grosbeaks feeding on sunflower seed outside the window in the back yard.  I can still provide water for the birds and I have started looking more at planting more bird friendly plants in the yard. But I feel as if a part of my personality has been lost for good.

C. S. Lewis, Jack Kennedy and Me

47 years ago today the world lost two men who would posthumously have a great impact on me. One created a world in which I found great comfort as a teenager and young adult and the other, well I sort of made up a world for him.

I know that Jack Kennedy did a lot of good, had some wonderful ideas and was a much-loved President, but to me he was something other than that. I remember a coloring book I had when I was very young. It was of the First Family and had drawings of Caroline and her pony and Caroline and her younger brother, “John-John” in the White House gardens. The book probably also had drawings of Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy playing with their children. I remember feeling drawn to the coloring book and often made up stories that put myself inside the pages with the Kennedy children. I suppose the fact that JFK was the first president I remember had something to do with it, but he represented all leadership for me — so when the principal visited my kindergarten class on the first day of school, I thought he was our President. I thought of him as the father figure for the country — even the world.

Years later I learned that the Kennedys lost a baby girl the very day I was born and I often mused that perhaps God had one soul left to give a family on August 23, 1956 and somehow my parents won the baby girl lottery. I wondered what it would have been like growing up as Caroline and John-John’s older sister.

Then, of course, is the cafe table in Heaven where Uncle Don and Jack Kennedy sit — another source of comfort for me, especially this year now that my dad has joined the table.

C. S. Lewis, of course, created Narnia — a world on which I obsessed for several years. When I first discovered Narnia I wanted to meet or write a letter to C. S. Lewis to thank him and was devastated to find out he’d died years before I discovered his works.

So, as usual, I think about these two men on this day — the on anniversary of their deaths.