luscious_purple: OMG WTF BBQ (OMG WTF BBQ)
For those who were wondering about Expo 67, 50 years ago this month....

My family drove up from Massachusetts to Montreal. By this time, the family car would have been a 1965 Dodge Polara, sort of an off-white eggshell color. I have no idea which roads we took, but the trip seemed to take all day, and we got to Montreal in the late afternoon. My mother tried to teach me a bit of French; I was fascinated that the red stop signs said "Arrêt" and the exit signs said "Sortie." Since I had been reading everything I could find in advance of Expo 67 -- and even though I was only 7 1/2, that was a lot! -- I could recognize the huge geodesic dome of the U.S. pavilion off in the distance, but my Dad could not figure out how to get any closer to it. I remember saying, "Daddy, I think you missed the sortie."

We pulled over to the side of the highway and Dad pored over the map. A car pulled up behind us and a man got out and walked up to our car. He asked us whether we had any hotel reservations, and when my parents said no, he said, "You aren't going to find any." He introduced himself as a Mr. Dalton, pulled out his government ID and said that he was a Quebec government official and he and his wife were letting tourists stay in their home. So we followed him to his house, which had a facade made of randomly shaped blocks of white stone. The house seemed magnificent to me, especially because the street was also named Dalton. I have no idea how much my parents paid for us to stay in their spare bedroom, breakfast included.

We spent two or three days at the Expo. I remember HUGE crowds everywhere. At one point my mother and I waited 45 minutes in line to use the ladies' room. Forty-five minutes' wait to PEE!!!! I remember going up the escalator in the U.S. pavilion, which was said to be the longest escalator in the world. (I suspect the ones now at the Wheaton Metro station are longer.) I remember turning up my nose at the tuna-fish sandwiches my mother had packed for me in a cooler; I wanted fresh French fries, while my parents had a "buffalo burger." A parade for the 20-millionth visitor to the exposition passed by us.

I remember riding on an antique carousel in the amusement-park section, La Ronde. I was terrified, because instead of the vertical pole right in front of the saddle, the only place for me to hang on was a tiny little T-shaped handle to the right of the horse's mane. I remember spending my carefully saved-up allowance on an Expo 67 tote bag and a little flag with the "Man and His World" logo. I remember that I'd fall asleep in the back seat of the car on the way back to Mr. Dalton's house, but I would wake up when the car stopped at a gas station or something and my mother (whose grandparents were all born in the St. Lawrence River valley) would be translating directions for my father, who didn't speak a word of French, couldn't read the signs and kept getting lost.

On the last afternoon we were there, my mother declared that her feet hurt and parked herself on a spot of grass in the shade of a tree. My Dad took me to La Ronde, where we rode the Gyrotron, which I'd read about, probably in Life magazine. (An image of its exterior is here.) It was the first time I'd been on a ride with little moving cars that never quite stopped, even though this is quite normal now in the big theme parks. The first building was filled with a space motif, and it was my first encounter with black light -- I laughed at how my white ankle socks and the white parts of Dad's print shirt glowed eerily. Then the moving car took us back outside and down into the bowels of a fake volcano, where we were "eaten" by a big red monster at the end. I'm not sure what the combination of the two scenarios was supposed to convey, but I was thrilled anyway.

I wanted to take my mother on the Gyrotron, but wouldn't you know it -- that night there was a huge thunderstorm and the La Ronde rides closed early for safety reasons. We spent the evening sitting under the roof of a food-vending booth, with my mother talking in French to one of the workers there. The next morning we checked out of Mr. Dalton's house and headed home.

In late July 1983, as my mother and I were approaching the first anniversary of my father's death, she and I took a short trip to Montreal to see the actual city. We stayed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel -- I didn't yet know it had been the site of the famous John and Yoko "bed-in" -- and saw lots of neat stuff. I insisted on checking out the Expo property again. From a distance we could see the skeleton of the geodesic dome. The Gyrotron had vanished from La Ronde, but I did go on a loop-the-loop roller coaster, just to satisfy myself.
luscious_purple: Star Wars Against Hate (Star Wars Against Hate)
(Note: I don't know whether this will cross-post to LJ because I haven't accepted LJ's new TOS yet. We shall see what happens.)

Today makes the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I. Of course, the war has fallen out of living memory -- the only people who were alive back then and still exist were tiny children then. Of course we don't go around reenacting it much, because it wasn't full of "exciting" maneuvers, just a long, static, disgustingly miserable slog that was only peripherally relevant to our continued existence as a nation. (One could argue that we as a species did not learn a damned thing from that war because people are STILL using chemical weapons in Syria -- HORRIBLE.)

I honestly don't know whether I have any relatives who served in World War I. Once I found an online listing of WWI soldiers from my mother's hometown and it included a man with the same name as my grandfather. However, I have a hard time believing that my grandfather served. His first two kids were born in 1914 and 1915, then my Uncle Rene was born in September 1917, and my mother was born in September 1919. Do the math. IMHO, my mother looked more like her father than any of her siblings. So if he had served in any capacity, he probably remained on the home front.

Since my hometown's city hall was built in the 1930s, probably with New Deal funding, the community's memorial to World War I got pride of place in front of the main entrance. It's a granite obelisk with four statues, one on each side, one each representing the Army, the Navy, the Marines ... and the nurses. Yes. A woman with a calf-length skirt on a military memorial. I wonder why this is not more famous nationally.
luscious_purple: scribal blot (scribal icon)
On January 12, 1997, the New England Patriots won a playoff game. I know this because I had to plan the calling hours at the funeral around this.

My mother used to say, "Don't bother having a wake for me when I go." And she went on about the expense of it all. Finally I told her, "Well, gee, Mom, what if **I** want to have people come and comfort me at the hour of my greatest need? Funeral rituals are for the living!" After that, she didn't rant about the calling hours as much.

So, when I came to make the arrangements for Mom the way she had done for Dad ... I realized that everyone was 15 years older than when Dad passed, and some people might have given up night driving along the way, and it gets dark early in January. And then the funeral director gently suggested that the playoff game started at 4 p.m. and would go till at least 7 and no one would want to be at the funeral home during that.

Thus, instead of the tradition 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. hours, I just had the wake from 1 to 4 p.m. Then my relatives trooped over to my childhood home and we all watched the Patriots together. Not like my heart was in it or anything like that.
luscious_purple: Paint Branch UU Chalice (Paint Branch Chalice)
... my mother passed away in the ICU.

She had gotten worse each of the days since I arrived in Massachusetts. The morning of her death, the hospital had called me and asked me to bring a copy of her living will, if she had one. I knew she had one, because I had visited with her lawyer when she had it drawn up. It took me a bit to find it, but fortunately I knew enough of my mother's secret hiding places.

I picked up my cousin Janet and my Aunt Bev and went to the hospital. The medical staff explained that my mother wasn't likely to be breathing on her own much longer and that once she got on a ventilator, she would probably never get off of it. I knew how strongly my mother didn't ever want to be on a ventilator, how she put that in her living will. So I signed the DNR. I hated it with every fiber of my being, but I knew it was what my mother wanted.

My mother's primary care physician stopped by the hospital on his way home from work. He took her hand and said it had been an honor and a privilege to be her doctor.

At the moment she stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating, Mom's hand fluttered a little. I hope she heard me saying "I love you, I love you" and singing snippets of songs to her through my tears. I hope my voice was the last thing she heard.

Love you still, Mom.
luscious_purple: Baby blasting milk carton with death-ray vision (death-ray baby)
Forgot to mention yesterday: The NBC commercials celebrating Matt Lauer's 20th anniversary as co-anchor of the Today show remind me of how much of a fan of Bryant Gumbel my mother was. In fact, on Gumbel's last day on Today (20 years ago yesterday), I left my VCR recording when I went to work so that I would have a tape of that tribute episode in case my mother missed it due to her knee procedure. I never showed it to her....

Twenty years ago today ... my Saturday started with a call from my cousin Janet, saying that my mother was in a lot of pain and couldn't move her legs and was being transferred from Leominster Hospital to St. Vincent's Hospital in Worcester. Obviously I was upset over the complications, and I wanted to fly up to Massachusetts, but I had the additional complication that I was the only member of my four-person work group who was supposed to be in the office for the coming week. My boss and his wife were incommunicado, somewhere in Paraguay on vacation; the second person was on a ski trip in Vermont; the third person was flying (with my boss's boss) to a conference on the West Coast.

I remember the afternoon as a tangle of phone conversations. I couldn't call Janet back directly because she had called from a pay phone -- remember that technology? So I was trying to find out what was going on from the Leominster staff, plus I was trying to convince US Airways that I needed a "family emergency fare" or whatever it was called, so that I could fly to Boston right away, plus I was trying to find somebody from my then-workplace to notify about the situation. I finally tracked down the wife of my boss's boss, who promised to tell her husband once he reached his destination.

Around dinnertime I flew up to Boston. (I wasn't worried about how I was going to get around in Massachusetts, because my mother's car was sitting, unused, at her house.) Janet and her husband, Kevin, picked me up at Logan Airport. By that time, my mother was in surgery (for 4.5 hours, as it turned out), so there was no point in my trying to see her that night.

On the way back to my childhood home, we stopped at Leominster Hospital to pick up my mother's personal effects, which for some reason weren't transported in the ambulance along with her. Once alone at home, I looked through her purse just to see what was in it (you know how people always say stuff gets stolen in hospitals). At the bottom of the purse I found a baggie with two diamond rings in it. My mother's and my grandmother's. The ones that my mother had reported stolen to the local police a couple of months earlier, because she was sure that the visiting nurses and home health aides that I'd arranged for her were stealing her blind. With her mild confusion, Mom had robbed herself.
luscious_purple: scribal blot (scribal icon)
Do you know why the TV commercials for the newfangled blood thinners (the ones that are supposed to replace Coumadin/warfarin) always warn patients to tell their doctors if they plan any spinal anesthesia? I'll tell you why.

Twenty years ago today, my mother went to the regional hospital to have an infection drained from one of her knee joints. Since she had a mechanical heart valve, she had to be careful about infections. (She was also taking warfarin for that.) On top of that condition, she was battling both congestive heart failure and COPD, so the doctors thought that she should have spinal anesthesia rather than general anesthesia. It would be better for her cardiopulmonary system, they said.

Unfortunately, the doctors didn't know that Mom had a small blood clot somewhere inside her spinal column. It probably resulted from a fall on the bedroom floor -- a fall not big enough to break any bones, mind you, just enough to shake her up. At any rate, when the doctors withdrew a tiny amount of spinal fluid to make room for the anesthetic, the clot swelled up and pressed on her spinal cord, causing her lots of pain and disorientation and making her unable to move her legs. And thus started her final downhill slide.

(Later, when her primary care physician phoned me after her funeral to see how I was doing, he said that his father had died under virtually identical circumstances. Over the years, doctors have wised up to this potential side effect of blood thinners, probably because of accumulated similar experiences.)

The more you know, etc. etc.
luscious_purple: i'm in ur fizx lab, testin ur string therry (string therry)
The Tournament of Roses has a "never on Sunday" policy, apparently dating back to the days when people rode horses to church, so we had to wait until today to watch our favorite New Year's Day parade. (It was certainly a tradition in MY house, anyway.)

Later on, the boy toy and I watched the Rose Bowl football game. I'm not one to watch any old football game just for the hell of it, but the boy toy is a big fan of the University of Southern California Trojans, because his mother graduated from USC. (The boy toy himself went to a Division III school, Humboldt State.) It was a thrilling game, with dramatic interceptions and lead changes, plus lots of scoring. USC won with a last-minute field goal, 52-49. Woot!

* * * * * *

Tonight makes 20 years since my final telephone conversation with my mother. (Of course, I didn't know that at the time.) I'm about to hit a lot of Mom-related 20-year milestones, all of them sad.
luscious_purple: Julia, the Maine Coon Cat (Julia)
I think I've caught up with everybody from the friending meme, so it's about time that I started explaining myself to my new friends (and this may be a refresher course for longtime friends as well).

I'm Patty, Pat, or Patricia (not Trish). Born and raised in Massachusetts, I still identify with that state, even though I have lived in Maryland for 23 years now. I am simultaneously an only child and the youngest of at least five -- my mother had a whole string of miscarriages before I came along. When I was growing up, I thought *everyone* waited 11 years after their wedding to become parents. Ha ha ha. So, yeah, my parents were "old" parents. In fact, today would have been my mother's 96th birthday.

So, yeah, I've been "on my own" since my mother died when I was 37. My father died shortly before my 23rd birthday. At least he got to see me graduate from college ... the first time around.

I have bachelor's degrees in both journalism and physics (different universities, different decades) and a master's degree in astronomy. Didn't get to my doctorate; the master's degree is worth about as much as a postage stamp in the job market. I did a lot of writing for trade magazines you've never heard of. For the past five years I've been freelancing, which means that I still write for some of those obscure publications, but for far less money. Sometimes I get really depressed and wonder why the hell I bothered to be the first in my family to go to college.

Anyhow, as you may have noticed from looking at my tags, I've been in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) almost as long as I've been on LJ. (See this for an explanation if you're unfamiliar.) Sometimes I wish I had joined the SCA much earlier in my life -- who knows what my life might look like by now -- but one can't turn the clock back. I just might as well make the best of whatever life I've got left.

Some other dramatis personae in this journal:

* Julia -- my beautiful gray and white cat. She came to live with me on July 14, 2009. (Don't worry, I love dogs too, I just don't have one in my life at the moment.)

* The boy toy -- this guy who has been living here in my condo (without a job) for some years now. I tend not to call him my boyfriend. More like the Doctor Who companion. I have no plans to marry him. People think I should throw him out, but I worry that I will be incapacitated with loneliness.

* Tall Dancer -- An unattached male SCAdian who lives 650 miles away. He was invited to our barony to teach some dances back in January and I ended up getting a wicked bad crush on him. Various things happened online. I guess we're just friends now. I have been unable to convince him to go to War of the Wings, a fairly large SCA event that is roughly equidistant from the two of us. But I'm going there anyway.

* R. -- A platonic male friend of mine for 30-plus years. Lives in northern Virginia. Politically conservative, so I try not to bring up the subject of politics. Huge LOTR fan. He has many, um, quirks, but he is part of a small group of friends who helped pull me out of a dark place when I was in my 20s, thus earning my lifelong thanks.

* T.H. -- A friend who has invited me to her house for Thanksgiving for many, many years. I mean, when I first started going, her nephew was in middle school, and he's now in his mid-20s. By now I know her entire family.

* Maugorn and Patches, CZ and Alex/Phoenix -- people I know both in real life and in LJ.

Other people to be explained when necessary.

Another fairly recent introductory post.

I think that's it for now. Feel free to ask questions.
luscious_purple: The middle class is too big to fail! (middle class)
A woman’s home is her castle.

When I think of “home,” I don’t think of the condo I bought nearly 15 years ago. I dream of the perfect little house.

Two bedrooms, one bath, six closets. A basement, half finished, and an attic with a real fixed staircase. A garage just big enough for a whale of an American-made car.

Shiny varnished woodwork. Maple trees to shade the roof. A backyard hill made for sledding.

My father and mother built that house. One evening, as a thirtysomething man trying to start a family with his wife, my father sketched out the design of the house on a crinkly sheet of tissue paper. The initial sketch became more detailed as he took a ruler and pencil and measured out the walls and doorways just as he had been taught in his high school mechanical-drawing class. Then he and my mother bought a half-acre of land and got the foundation dug. All summer long, the two of them worked 10 hours a day at their factory jobs, grabbed a sandwich for supper, set up a couple of clamp lights, and hammered away until midnight.

My parents brought me home to that house as a newborn. Growing up, I knew every closet by name (front-hall closet, work-clothes closet) as well as by the sound of its door and by its contents (the squeaky canister vacuum cleaner, the musty scent of worn sweaters and pants). The medicine cabinet made a prolonged metallic squeak as my father opened and closed it when he got up at night to take some aspirin. The sheets on the backyard clothesline almost blinded me with their cleanliness in the sunshine.

One evening at the dinner table when I was about seven years old, my mother announced, “We don’t have to pay the rent anymore.” I didn’t know anything about veterans’ mortgages at the time, but I garnered the sense that we had planted deep roots and I would always be able to build cardboard-box houses in the cellar and roll down the back hill with the grass slap-slapping me in the face until the world spun weirdly.

Time passed, and one Sunday morning my father dropped dead in the bathroom he had built, and some years later my mother went into the hospital and never came out. I bought a condo near the big city where I’d always wanted to work and sold the little house in the small town to a single mother who had been born at the hospital near my condo.

My life puttered on until the economy crashed around me. Now I am old and hard to employ, and I worry constantly about paying the mortgage. I know I could not have foreseen the Great Recession and its lasting impact, but some days I bitterly regret not keeping my parents’ house free and clear. At night I close my eyes and still dream about the perfect home, built by my parents’ hands, with hopes and love.

2014-03-31 17.15.18
luscious_purple: OMG WTF BBQ (OMG WTF BBQ)
What 2014 might look like, according to Isaac Asimov in 1964.

I saw Asimov once. It was in the 1980s at a small SF con in NYC. I had gone on this road trip simply because my friend Bill R., who used to sell posters and stuff at cons, was vending his wares at this one. I remember his bristly mutton-chops, of course.

Ah, and next year makes the 50th anniversary of the New York World's Fair. My parents did not take me to it, because all their friends warned them that it would be a horrible place to take a small child. So they left me with an older family friend named Bernie, who took good care of me. But my parents missed me terribly and vowed never to go on vacation without me again.

Funny thing is: even though my parents came home with a bagful of World's Fair souvenirs for me, for years afterward I thought my parents had been delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention (which actually happened six or seven weeks *after* my parents' NYC trip). I think I was well into my teens before I figured out the truth. I don't think my parents lied to me ... I think I just conflated events in my head somehow.

Speaking of my parents ... it's always hard to get up on August 29th.
luscious_purple: OMG WTF BBQ (OMG WTF BBQ)
Sixty-five years ago this morning, the granddaughter of French Canadian immigrants and the son of Lithuanian immigrants got married ... and they eventually became my parents.

Ten years ago today, I started a LiveJournal. Wow, it's been quite the ride. I was following a new friend onto LJ. Since then I've made lots of new friends, reconnected with an old friend from my Massachusetts days (by literally recognizing her face in an icon in the "fortysomething" community), got involved in the SCA (on the suggestion of said new friend, who proposed that I get involved in Markland, except I couldn't figure out how to do that), made even MORE new friends. Never mind gaining and losing a couple of jobs along the way, although at least I got to go to Hawaii for free. :-)

Yep, I've had quite a few adventures in the past decade, and LJ has been heavily intertwined in most all of them. Since LJ has had its issues over time, and now seems to be a shadow of its former self, I started this mirror account at DW a few years back. I suppose I should start using LJ Book to back the whole darned thing up just in case the Russian overlords pull the plug. Hey, we've seen other 'net ecosystems go away: GreatestJournal, Geocities, Posterous....

I wonder where the next decade will take me? And how will I chronicle it?
luscious_purple: "avoid heralds" (avoid heralds)
I have to start by mentioning that I'm watching the ESPN Sunday night baseball game, Red Sox versus Yanks at Fenway. Bottom of the third and the Sox are threatening to score. Hope they do -- this is the rubber game of the series, and the season has not been kind so far to the 1-7 Sox.

Anyhow ... on Saturday I went to Lochmere's Night on the Town event at the Elks camp in Annapolis. I hadn't pre-registered because the boy toy had been wanting to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival, but when the weather forecast was cloudy and cool and possibly damp, he declined. I didn't get there too early -- indeed, I had to dodge a HUGE traffic backup on the Beltway and take the back roads to U.S. Route 50. So lunch was technically sold out by the time I arrived; I had to wait till mid-afternoon and then snag some leftover food.

Fortunately, I was just planning to have a relax-an-event anyway. While awaiting the opportunity to nosh, I sat in on a medieval-pinwheel-making class taught by Mistress Sigrid, and I made my own lil' pinwheel from wood and parchment paper. (I'll probably give it to Eleanor the Naked Baby or any other small children who come visiting at our Pennsic encampment.) I browsed the baronial yard sale known as "Lochmart," I chatted with some of my fellow heralds, and during evening court I worked on the practice tablet-weaving band that has been sitting around the house for a while now. (Actually, I straightened out the cards so that they were all going the same way, and I practiced just the plain old "two turns forward, two turns back" shtick. But even weaving without a pattern can be tricky if you keep getting distracted as I do/did.)

Of course feast was sold out too, so I just came home and noshed on some satisfying leftovers for supper. I do love to feast, but it's probably just as well I saved $9.

Today was mostly cloudy too, even though previous forecasts had said "sunny." *sigh* So I slept kind of late and missed the service again, and then I dawdled and was late for the Wicca 101 class. So I learned something about grounding and centering, but I missed the part about casting a circle. Darn.

Then the boy toy settled in for some laundry and cleaning, and I was OK until I came across a bag that had a lot of stuff from 1981 in it. I could tell it was from 1981 because of the dates on the letters from my parents. Mom wrote most of the letters and signed them "Mom and Dad," but a couple of times, my father wrote a separate message and slipped it in the envelope, and those notes were signed "Daddy." I didn't cry, but I got all sad and thoughtful. Having two parents ... that was such a long time ago now.

(For those of you who don't already know: my Dad died the year after I graduated from college, and my mother died 14 years ago. So this is not a divorce thing.)

Some homemade chicken soup and a great Josh Beckett pitching performance, though, and I'm doing better now.
luscious_purple: Star Wars Against Hate (Default)
Today is the 120th anniversary of my maternal grandmother's birth. Yes, she was born on the 25th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, and her 22nd birthday was the last day Titanic saw sunlight.

Here she is during World War II with the youngest of her four sons:

Here is Grammy sewing in her kitchen, probably in the 1940s (the master bedroom is in the background):

I was the youngest of her 11 grandchildren, and I came upon the scene when she was already a senior citizen, but she did make me some doll clothes with that sewing machine, and she crocheted huge single-granny-square afghans for my parents and me.

I took this photo of my mother and her mother when I got my first camera, a Polaroid, for Christmas in 1971:

All my older cousins called her Mémé (pronounced "meh-may" in the Canadian French patois), but for some reason my mother thought that sounded lower-class, so I called her Grammy. I always enjoyed her company so much, even though her body had gotten frail by the time I got to be in elementary school. She had severely bowed legs. But she was a strong-minded person. Despite her dentures, she could still eat corn off the cob in 1974. I don't think she was well-educated, but she had an awfully good heart.

September 2017

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