Category Archives: Memories

My year of being religious

Growing up we rarely went to church, and when we did it was painful for me. I was extremely shy and the Sunday school kids seemed to be mean.

My parents tried to make up the lack of religious education by giving me Bibles over the years. First a tiny book full of Bible verses, at least one that I memorized. Then a huge illustrated Bible whose drawings alternately fascinated or horrified me. They also gave me a regular King James bible and a Living Word Bible.

I am not sure how old I was when I decided to pray for the soldiers in Vietnam, but when I told Mrs. Wewell, our next door neighbor, she said that I should pray for her instead. I did and the next day her beloved dog was killed by a car. When I tried again a few months later, her hand was caught in the ringer of her old ringer-washer, making that hand useless for the rest of her life. So I quit praying, certain that God misunderstood my requests.

I discovered C. S. Lewis’ Narnia in my teens. I considered them my favorite books for a very long time but knew no one else who’d read them, although eventually my British boyfriend, Jeremy, read them too and loved them as much as I did. I guess I knew they were based on the Bible at some level, but it didn’t bother me, nor did it make me religious.

Fast forward to 1996 or so. We’d bought a new computer and one of the first things I did was look up C. S. Lewis. I joined an email list called Mere Christianity where people talked about Lewis and all of his books. Among the other members was C. S. Lewis’ stepson, Doug Gresham, who invited me (and my family) to his Irish retreat when I mentioned I was trying to believe. Other members also tried to give me advice on how to find faith. A few sent me books they’d written.

Something clicked in my head and I felt that maybe, just maybe, it had all worked. That I was now among the faithful. I recall looking at my students in a different way, even feeling I could see their souls on one occasion. My one-time teaching assistant at work belonged to the LDS church and we’d have long conversations about faith.

Also about this time Dean was taking the kids to church because he felt they needed a religious upbringing. And also to be able to tell his mother that they were getting a Christian education. I didn’t accompany them very often, but sometimes I did. It turns out the congregation thought I was Catholic and that’s why I rarely went to their church.

This lasted about a year and the feeling of having faith, of believing faded and eventually went away.

I think that part of my search for religion and faith was assuming that when I died I would need a minister or some religious official to officiate at my funeral. I’ve since realized that is not the case and it’s definitely made me breathe easier that I don’t have a church. Or faith in a supreme being.

I’ve had some blips now and then and even started a blog about it just after my father died because at that time I guess I still hoped to eventually find my religion. But not now.

Molasses Cookies

Makes approximately 24 cookies

  • 12 T. Sweet Butter
  • ¼ c. Molasses
  • 1¾ c. Flour
  • ½ t. Ground Ginger
  • ½ t. Salt
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ t. Ground Cloves
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • ½ t. Baking Soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° (F)
  2. Melt butter
  3. Add sugar and molasses and mix
  4. Thoroughly beat egg and add to butter mixture, blend well
  5. Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, add to mixture, mix. (Batter will be wet)
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or alumunium foil and drop a tablespoon of batter on lined cookie sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies. They will spread.
  7. Bake cookies until they start to darken, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven while soft.
  8. Let cool on parchment paper or foil

When Dean and I first moved to Alexandria we rented a house in the Beverly Hills neighborhood. Shortly after moving in, Ken and Pam, neighbors from across the street brought us a plate of delicious molasses cookies. This is their recipe. It’s good!

Old Lovers

I spent a few weeks last summer on a river boat cruise. It was the romantic Danube tour but I was with my husband’s sister and six of her closest friends. There was nothing in their way to prevent turning the cruise into an episode of The Loveboat, but being the only non-single one of the bunch, that was not an option.

The night we were docked in Vienna the seven friends chose to go to a classical concert in town, but I was tired after having gone on a morning tour of Vienna in the pouring rain, then a raft trip after lunch. I was also coming down with a cold, although I was convinced it was allergies at the time so I opted out of the music and sat in the lingboat’s lounge drinking a cocktail and reading on my Kindle.

When I looked up from my book I noticed a tiny woman with snow-white hair sitting across from me, drinking her own cocktail. I smiled and she smiled and before long I knew everything there was to know about Katherine Ashe aka Katherine Ann Wynne. She worked for a company that closed down or something so decided to write. She published books on an obscure Englishman called Simon de Montfort who apparently founded Parliament.

She must have sensed that I was not going to read the books about the founder of Parliament so she said she self-published a book about Fairies. This might or might not have been after I mentioned my daughter was a big believer in the wee folk.

After an hour or so her husband, Peter, joined us. When he learned that my husband worked for NIH he said that my husband probably knew someone he went to school with. Sure enough, Dean knew Peter’s classmate, Tony Fauchi.

I had such a delightful time speaking with this fascinating couple that I asked them if they would mind posing with Rupert. They said they’d be delighted to and anyone who would not want to pose with Rupert was not worth knowing.

Katherine and Peter holding Rupert in the lounge of a cruise ship.
Katherine, Peter and Rupert

Their love for each other was apparent in the way they spoke to each other, the way they looked at each other, the way they spoke of their past life in New York City and their current life in rural Pennsylvania. Throughout the rest of the tour I saw them quite often and while we didn’t have any more long talks, I could still see their love for each other, even at a distance.

They seemed like such a happy, intelligent couple that I think about them often. I still need to read The Fairy Garden though.

My first crime

When I was around 6 years old I was friends with two sisters, Devin and Kathy, who lived on my street. We used to play in their basement where they had such wonderful toys as a mini kitchen with a sink with real running water and a washer that really washed doll clothes along with matching dryer that whose drum you could spin with a crank on the side.

They also had a doll house with lamps and ceiling fixtures that really lit up via hidden batteries and wires. In addition to dollhouse-sized furniture, this dollhouse had dollhouse-sized residents: A mother, a father, a son and a daughter. It even had tiny plastic babies (the kind that one might find in a King Cake) that took long naps in dollhouse-sized cribs.

While I desperately coveted everything they had, I really wanted one of those tiny babies so one day, when the sisters were briefly elsewhere, I secretly slid one of the tiny dolls in the small pocket on the lower thigh of my turquoise pedal pushers. They had many tiny babies and I had none, I said to myself to justify the crime.

Photograph of three tiny dolls. Front, back and side.
Exhibit A

Not long after that day I was playing with my Barbie in my living room, having her hold her tiny new baby. My mom must have been watching me play and asked me where I got the tiny baby. At first I said that Devin and Kathy gave it to me because they had lots and lots, but when she pressed me (maybe threatened to ask their mother) I admitted that I’d taken it. She made me promise to give it back to them and apologize.

I kept half of that promise. I did give Devin and Kathy the stolen tiny baby, but I did not apologize. In fact I lied and told them that I had my own stash of tiny baby dolls and they were welcome to one of mine. They thanked me with hugs.

Dona turns 7. Eight girls at a birthday party.
This photo was taken around the time of the crime. The criminal is sitting in the front row, second from left and the victims are in the front row third from left (Kathy) and back row middle — making the silly face(Devin)

***Note that I did not attempt any wordplay so don’t strain yourself trying to find some.***

2020’s Theme: Letting Go

Just a few minutes ago, while I was waiting for the Instant Pot to do its magic on eight eggs and hard boil them, I noticed that the side of our new kitchen drawers have the manufacturer’s name on them (Medallion) and that made me remember our old kitchen cabinets. When we moved into this house, a friend who helped us move was impressed with the brand of the cabinets (Quaker Maid) and told us that we had some quality kitchen cabinets. Several years later I mentioned that to the uncle of Clare’s friend who we’d hired to paint some rooms in our house. He made some disparaging comment about the brand which implied that they were not all that great. That comment has stuck with me through the years and when I remember it my stomach tightens and I am pretty sure my blood pressure rises.

I thought about how that made me feel, this first day of a new year and new decade and realized that I needed to let it go. To somehow make that comment not bother me any more. It is really silly that it bothered me so much and even sillier that it still does. I mean, this guy was living with his brother and doing side jobs to make a living. His actual home was a double-wide trailer (in Lake Tahoe, but still). Maybe saying that made him feel better about himself. His brother was not much better with the side comments, so maybe it was a family thing. When I spent a week in their double-wide in Tahoe and was asked to share in a rather expensive restaurant bill (which I was happy to do) instead of just paying for the kids and me he remarked that, after all, I was staying in his home, rent free for a few days.

Anyway, I think that this year I will dedicate to letting things go. Memories like the above, things I don’t need/use/wear, and hopefully a few inches around my waist too.

I am not making resolutions, I am not making a list of things I want to learn, I am not going to try to read a book a week and I am not doing a no-buy challenge. I am just going to let some things go.

The end of wrestling (original draft March 2011)

Wrestling ended officially last weekend with the annual Wrestling banquet and honors ceremony for the team. For us it was the final banquet, and very bittersweet.

Wrestling is over for Andrew. He has no plans on wresting in college and, as far as I know, there are no wrestling “pick up” matches in which former wrestlers can participate if they get the urge to wrestle — unlike many other sports such as basketball, baseball and football.

I don’t have a lot of regrets, but one I do have is not being interested in Andrew’s sporting life earlier. I rarely went to any of his soccer or rugby matches or basketball games when he was young, and while I probably went to more wrestling events because they were inside, didn’t go to most of them up through middle school. I understood none of the rules of any of the sports he liked and was not interested enough to try to learn. I’ll never get those days back for a re-do.

Once he got into high school and was chosen the varsity wrestling team as a freshman, I began to take an interest. I volunteered to redesign and manage the team website and attended most of the meets and tournaments throughout his high school career. I learned the rules, screamed directions to the wrestlers with the best of them, and cursed out the referees poor calls like a pro. I developed an appreciation for all of the sensory assaults experiences one encounters at a wrestling tournament: the shrill whistles, loud buzzers and screaming fans; the scent of hundreds of sweating adolescent bodies mingled with the odor of bleach used to sanitize the mats; the backache from sitting for hours on hard, backless bleachers; the sight of constant movement on the gym floor under unforgiving gymnasium lighting; the taste of whatever was sold in the concession stands.

I am so proud of my son and what he accomplished these four years as a wrestler. I believe that much of what he’s become as a young man (a delightful, smart, charming, kind, thoughtful, strong young man) is due to his experience on the wrestling team. I wrote about his coach a few years ago — but it was even more than that. It was his team. His teammates. His opponents. It was the whole experience that helped shape him.

The facts that he took first place in the county and region and fourth place at States are admirable as is his inclusion on the local newspaper’s  “first” team, but even without these honors, I would have been proud of him. They’re just added value — icing on the cake.

Here’s to the end of wrestling — the end of an era for us. We’ve got a lot of memories and a whole lot of photos.

Here’s my favorite. He’s hugging his coach after his very last wrestling match of his high school career. He lost, but took 4th.

DSC_0474

Peonies

As much as I love the deeply fragrant smell of lilacs in the spring, I think I prefer the lighter, less heady smell of peonies.

Peonies from my garden

Peonies smell like warm, late-spring afternoons on Heine Avenue where several plants grew on the south-facing side of the house. That smell is wafting through my dining room right now bringing me memories of my childhood at 240 Heine.

The smell foretold the end of the school year and the long, carefree warm months of summer just around the corner. Soon there’d be fireflies. Soon we’d be barefoot all day.

I only have one peony plant that produces flowers. Usually I only get two or maybe three flowers, but this year I got five — likely because the neighbor cut down a tree that was casting shade where the peonies grew. I hope to plant more of these, perhaps in front of something that we’ll plant for privacy instead of the weeds that grow there now.