Challenge: Cleaning out a handbag

Like Fibber McGee’s closet, a woman’s purse can be “enemy territory.”

Note: This was first published on Yahoo Contributor’s Network a little over five years ago. I recently ran across it in my files and, because of the demise of the platform, I decided to republish it here. I must admit that my habits have not changed in the intervening time, and my handbag today is just as disorganized as that other one. I simply ignore its contents, and I have perfected that attitude. But I have moved in the direction of smaller bags. Is that progress? I’ll let you decide.

It’s always happening to me — I reach for something in my handbag and instead of finding it, whatever it might be, quickly and easily, I emerge with a handful of paper remnants, snippets of napkins, business cards with indecipherable notes on the backs, sales slips with faded, scrawled words and phrases. Each time, I make a silent resolution to clean out the contents of my purse and restore order (the hope is that by so doing, I can perhaps instill some order in my life — to date it has not happened).

I have writer friends who swear they do the same. Is it then a shared affliction?

And, what to do about it?

On a recent foray into the depths of my “carry bag” the yield of remnants was especially telling. Aside from the assorted receipts which clearly no longer serve any purpose and which I cavalierly tossed in the trash, I found:

  • 3 words on separate remnants of old paper – Inkheart, badinage, and “old-fangled” –attesting to a quirky thought process. I like to think that I treasure words, and explain to family and friends, especially the young ones, that words are “fun” and that learning meanings is a game. They often respond with blank stares.
  • 3 scraps with phrases – “Now is the time,” “sede vacante,” and “Americans: Outliers Among Outliers.
  • One square yellow sticky note with a name and time scribbled in red ink — important appointment would be my guess. Surprisingly, I have no recollection of ever meeting or talking with “Rae.” So, Rae, if I missed our appointment, I am truly sorry. Perhaps you could contact me again.
  • 2 slips with dollar amounts, nothing major: Simply $12.97 and $3.34. Really?
  • One half of an old bank deposit slip with the following numbers: 12-17-36. I thought perhaps it was a combination, the safe deposit box? Then I remembered: It’s Pope Francis’s birthday. Shouldn’t we all know when the pope’s birthday is?
  • A 3×5 file card with an email address (which I will not print, because I really do know him).
  • Two recipe cards picked up at a local grocery store – Snapper with Parsley and Cilantro Rice, and Haddock over Walnut Rice. I see a pattern there – they sound good, too; I resolve to try both.
  • And, finally, two scraps with what I will assume are either pieces of song lyrics or phrases from a book I was reading; no attribution, however. But I am known for doing that – scribbling phrases that I find moving or meaningful and then forgetting the occasion or the author to the point that I am always afraid to reuse them out of respect for copyrights and creativity. Maybe I wrote them and I shouldn’t worry. Maybe they are things my grandmother used to say and I should simply laugh. Maybe they are the code to a secret strongbox full of jewels. See where my twisted mind takes me?

In writing this, I decided that I really did not know the precise meaning of the word “foray.” So I Googled it. I have become a child of the computer age, however unwillingly!

And I found:

for·ay

/ˈfôrā/

Noun

A sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, esp. to obtain something;

a raid: “The garrison made a foray against Richard’s camp.”

Now, that is a definition I will nevermore forget. And it describes perfectly my reconnaissance mission to my handbag. It was successful. It was effective. And, as I explained to my grandson just recently:

“We are always learning, aren’t we? I think that we should try to learn something new every day.”

He nodded, smiled, and promptly returned to what he was doing before.

 

Posted in Children, Erewhon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

D-Day — so long ago, but not forgotten . . .

On an off-season trip to France in early February, my husband and I were mesmerized by the Normandy beaches. Their windswept expanses and blustery beauty are inescapable, of course, and in many of the small-town historic locations not another tourist was in sight. Winter hours were in effect at those museums and attractions that were open at all. Days were cold and drizzly, and the climax was the epic blizzard that blew through Brittany and Normandy on its way to paralyzing Paris.

But the somber season underscored the meaning of the trip for us. Although we both had previously been to Normandy, we had also then been enchanted by Mont St. Michel, by the food, the warmth, the sun and the flowers. This time it was the history that drew us — the beaches themselves, the battlements and the cemeteries.

The experience changed us.

An Overview of Overlord

We began our “beach” day at the Caen Memorial Museum, the Centre for History and Peace in Normandy. It is astonishing in its scope, and in its pertinence. A full-size P-51 Mustang hangs in its great hall, looking surprisingly small and fragile. A German bunker mockup is eerily realistic. And its tableaux and diverse displays are awesome.

The collections span events far beyond D-Day, detailing how a European conflict became a World War, and how battleground experiences morphed into the Cold War. There is also a piece of twisted metal from the World Trade Center in New York, a chilling reminder that peace has not yet been achieved in our time. I would eagerly return to spend additional time there. On this cold, windy day, it was good to be inside, and we learned a great deal during the time we spent there. But we were eager to get out to the beaches before the sun sunk too low on the horizon.

The five Normandy beaches that supported the D-Day landing are not far from Caen, and not far apart, scarcely 50 miles — one day is sufficient to see them all. In 1944, it took the allies six full days to gain control of the embattled territory and unite the beaches. Operation Overlord, the military campaign begun on D-Day, succeeded in liberating all of northern France by August 30, and by the next spring, the war was nearly ended.

June 6 is a day, much like December 7, that should, perhaps, live in infamy. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 American troops died on Omaha Beach where there was heavy fighting; more than 9,300 Allies were killed, injured or went missing along the five beaches that day. Instead, though, June 6 is a day that is remembered — as it should be — as the turning point of a war that lasted far too long and cost far too much in terms of both dollars and lives.

By the end of the day, more than 156,000 Allied troops were ashore on the coast of France. By the end of the week, the numbers swelled to more than 326,000, in addition to 50,000 vehicles and at least 100,000 tons of material. Approximately 5,000 ships and landing craft were part of the surprise invasion, along with support from 11,000 aircraft.

Prior to the beach landings, paratroopers were already in position behind the front lines; some of them had arrived in gliders. World War II tested the mettle of a whole generation — men and women — both at home and abroad, and of all parties to the conflict. And D-Day changed the course of that war. Eleven months after D-Day, the allies accepted the surrender of the German Army. Hitler had already committed suicide.

Preserving the Memories

Tributes to those who fought are everywhere. Pocket museums and unexpected reminders of the war are evident in every small town and along every roadway in this area. Local residents still remember what happened here, even though those who lived through the hard times are aging. Those who survived now die of old age. D-Day was, after all, 74 years ago.

Near Omaha Beach we stopped at a simple monument erected to the Big Red One, and walked out on the bluff above the beach to an impressive obelisk that stands as a lonely guidepost and memorial to the 1st Infantry Division. It is eerily quiet, and peaceful. We looked into a German artillery bunker and stood gazing across the expanse of sea grass and sand at a clear view of the waves below. We imagined the landing craft arriving in the crashing surf with their cargoes of young fighting men.

We stopped in the colorful village of Arromanches-les-Bains — designated Gold Beach, to see the remains of concrete Mulberry Harbours, towed across the English Channel to assist with the unloading of supplies ferried to France following D-Day. It was quiet and deserted on the day of our visit.

We spent somber moments in the Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center at Colleville-sur-Mer. We choked back tears at the thought that there are more than 9,300 white marble headstones here, and that the first burials dated to June 8, while battles still raged all around. This is American soil, paid for at great cost, but granted in perpetuity as a gift from a grateful French nation.

On the walls of the impressive semi-circular memorial that leads visitors into the grounds are the names of an additional 1,557 American soldiers whose remains could not be located and/or identified subsequent to the invasion.

 

The Impossibility of Forgetting

We left the American cemetery on that first day — thinking we did not need to walk among the headstones.

We drove on to the nearby La Cambe burial ground of 21,000 German soldiers who were never to return home. And we are still haunted by the stark black crosses and poignant symbolism of the battlefield cemetery established by the U.S. Army graves registration service during the war. It once held both American and German graves. The American dead were later exhumed and reburied at the American Cemetery, or returned to the United States in accordance with the wishes of next of kin.

The German Cemetery now contains a central mound to mark a mass grave: It is the final resting place of 209 unknown German soldiers and 89 identified combatants buried together. The cemetery was officially dedicated only in 1961, and, to this day, occasional interments of German soldiers whose remains are discovered throughout France are held there. La Cambe’s black crosses are purely symbolic. Flat ground markers list the names of the dead.

There are other cemeteries as well in Normandy — British, Canadian and Polish, along with many burial grounds that contain graves of both Allies and Axis troops — many of them still unidentified.

A Powerful Reminder

We drove on to Brittany, for several days of immersion in French countryside, food and culture. It was welcome after the emotional journey to the beaches.

But then we returned to the American Cemetery. We were drawn back to this spot, and were among a handful of visitors on a day that was blustery and frigid — snow was even then in the air — but it dawned bright and sunny. We walked among the headstones, reading the names, the units and the ages of those who died. We visited the chapel at the far end of the reflecting pool, gazed once again down at the beach, and stood, transfixed, as the color guard lowered the flag at 4 p.m. The mournful sound of Taps sounded across the silent acreage filled with stately white crosses and stars. Only then did we leave.

There is a time capsule embedded on the grounds — dedicated to General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the forces under his command on June 6, 1944. It was unveiled June 6, 1969, the 25th anniversary of D-Day, by the newsmen who were there. It contains  original reports and newspapers detailing the event.

It is slated to be opened on June 6, 2044.

Hopefully, 26 years hence, what happened on these beaches 100 years earlier will not have been forgotten.

Note: It was only recently that I became aware that my father, who served with the 364th Fighter Group in Honington, England, during World War II, earned service ribbons for D-Day. It came as a surprise, because he never talked much about his service during the war. I think I understand why. But I wish I could have heard his stories. 

Posted in History, Patriotism, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take a moment . . .

 

100_9060 (2)My husband and I traveled to the Normandy beaches in February 2018. It was a moving experience. Today, it is with special reverence for those who died on those wind-swept beaches of France that I will celebrate Memorial Day.

Memorial Day

Because I come from a military family, this day in my childhood was always marked by ceremony and parades, a solemn recognition that some who wore the uniform died in service. The food and family aspect of Memorial day was less important than the solemnity of remembrance.

Somehow this Memorial Day seems especially poignant: It is the 150th annual observance of what was originally termed “a day of memorial” following the Civil War. Decoration Day continued to be observed by families and communities across the nation, often on May 30, and often simply by decorating the graves of the fallen.100_8616This year also marks 100 years since the end of World War I, “the war to end all wars.” The custom of red poppies stems from the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915.

In just a matter of days, the world marks the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings that led to a cessation of hostilities in Europe, and finally to the end of World War II. Sadly, there have been many battles since.100_8663 (2)

A Time for Hope

But there is hope as well, perhaps the best hope in nearly 65 years for a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. American troops continue to serve in foreign lands, fight battles in far away places, and die in service to their country. Perhaps there is hope that those conflicts also will be ended before long.

It was only in 1971 that the observance of Memorial Day was officially fixed as the last Monday in May. It is a national holiday, a long weekend, and the unofficial start of summer. But, like most holidays, it has a serious side. 100_9062By all means, observe the holiday with friends and family. Be safe, enjoy the good things of life. But, take a moment — at least a moment — to acknowledge the sacrifice of the 645,000 men and women who have put on a uniform and given their lives in conflicts around the world since the outbreak of World War I.

At the same time, think back to our own conflict, and acknowledge those who — on both sides — paid homage to those who died. It makes Memorial Day even more meaningful.

Posted in History, Memorial Day, Patriotism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

September 12, the day after. . .

The word that I cannot get out of my mind today.

No matter what detractors may think or say, we are a resilient people. We may be a nation of defiant individualists; we may complain about conditions – sometimes too much; we may disagree adamantly about the way to solve problems, about best solutions, about the future of the world and what is good for society. We often hold tight to those differing opinions and are quick to voice them.

Resilience!

Deep at the heart of it all, though, we are a nation of optimists, of thumb-your-nose at the worst that befalls us believers in the reality of good; of roll-up-your-sleeves and get-back-to-work do-ers who are prepared to meet challenges head on and triumph over setbacks.

We saw that spirit over the past few days in Florida. We witnessed it last week in Houston and along the Gulf Coast. We have watched the horror of wild fires in the West and been told of the ongoing battles against them. We have seen it on the world stage. We have witnessed ordinary people helping other ordinary people in an outpouring of concern and the desire to make things better.

Perhaps we should remember that, think less about our differences and more about our resilience and our shared, collective purpose. We have been, and still are, a beacon of hope – as much to ourselves as to others.

Watching television coverage of natural events, I have been struck anew – brought almost to tears, but with smiles that I could not suppress – by the goodness exhibited during the worst of times. Volunteers join professionals; Coast Guard cutters and helicopters work together as do airplanes and cruise ships. Doctors and electricians, school children and businessmen, volunteer housewives and government officials, entertainers and sports figures – all come together in times of crisis.

A flotilla of private boats arrived to help out in Houston. And power company trucks formed a convoy from Minnesota to Florida. Hot shot firefighters traveled from Texas to Montana and the Pacific Northwest.

We all participate in the clean up and the rebuilding, we help the less fortunate and care for the hurt and grieving among us. We reach out to assist other nations and cultures, and we send not only our money, but we give of our time and resources. Much of the time, we do it with no thought of compensation, no expectation of thanks.

And that gives me hope. How can you view it otherwise? Come to think of it, there is another word that comes to mind.

Goodness!

As a country, we have proved our mettle in wars foreign and domestic, through flu outbreaks and dust bowls and stock market collapses, through bank failures and housing bubbles, through shipwrecks and space shuttle explosions, through natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and through many years during which issues have been hotly contested. As a nation, we have never faltered nor been defeated, never lost hope, never put aside our ability to laugh at ourselves, never given up.

And that gives me hope as well. It gives me hope that we will weather the current storms – both literally and metaphorically – that plague our nation.

During a moment of silence yesterday morning, repeated at four separate locations in the East and led by our president and first lady, we remembered what it took to get through one horrendous moment in our history. September 11, 2001. We survived then. We will now.

Today is September 12, 2017. Isn’t it time to get back to work? All of us; together.

Posted in Current Events, History, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Flags? No More!

 

4507640277_3ce21d11a0_bI hear in my mind a child’s question: “But, Daddy, why do they call it Six Flags? There’s only one.”

Although it originally had a pseudo-historical theme with distinct theme areas focusing on the architecture and successive eras and “flavors” of Texas history, today Six Flags Over Texas is all about the thrills.

I can’t shake the feeling that we are all players in a theater of the absurd.

Early Friday morning, reversing a commitment issued just one day earlier to “make no changes,” Six Flags Over Texas removed the Confederate flag from its marquee and from its flag poles. No, actually, the amusement parks removed all but one flag from the display at its two Texas locations and at Six Flags Over Georgia.

Henceforth six identical flags will fly – all the Stars and Stripes. Gone are the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the Confederate States of America, all of which flew over the land of Texas during its history, becoming the inspiration for the name.

The reason given? “We always choose to focus on celebrating the things that unite us versus those that divide us,” according to Six Flags spokeswoman Sharon Parker.

But What About the History?

Six Flags had long flown the lesser known “Stars and Bars,” the first official flag of the Confederacy, rather than the more incendiary and more familiar battle flag that features star-studded crossed blue ribbons on a red ground.

Also, to be fair, Six Flags operates 20 parks in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and only three actually flew the various flags, the original park in Arlington, Texas, one in San Antonio, and the park near Atlanta. Six Flags Over Georgia followed Texas’s lead several years ago, and renamed “The Confederacy” section of the park “Peachtree Square,” while in the Lone Star State it became “The Old South.” No matter that they forgot the history behind the flag.

Apparently, the events in Charlottesville a week ago were just too worrisome for park management to continue the old ways. There is no kind way to express current actions.

From Amusements to Reality

It is with dismay and an ever-growing sense of disbelief that I watch the news continue to unfold. Recommendations have been made in many communities to remove, warehouse or destroy Confederate monuments. There are calls to rename schools and public buildings, streets and parks. In Dallas, a “peaceful demonstration” held Saturday evening turned “heated,” according to news reports, but thanks heavens it did not turn violent; a prolonged study period has begun to decide the fate of the city’s statues and buildings that bear the names of Southern leaders.

Last week’s middle-of-the-night removal of statues from their pedestals in Baltimore, while the city’s mayor stood and watched, was a bit bizarre, don’t you think? The directive so quickly passed to “remove and destroy” the monuments is reminiscent of another time, when the Vichy government sacrificed French monuments to appease Nazi occupiers. That decision ultimately did not work out so well for France. And other cities, apparently, are considering “off hours” alterations to the public landscape.

Yes, These Are Unusual Times

At this point, few, if any, Americans have a good sense of where it will all lead.

Actually, there are times when I think that no one – on either side – has much good sense! But, it’s hard to believe that removing some statues is going to end the discord.

It’s sad to think that the best course of action is simply to take a seat and watch to see how the drama unfolds. This time it’s Confederate monuments and flags. What monuments next? What other flags and symbols will disappear? How long before there is no history to remember, no longer any history to teach, and certainly no way to learn the lessons that history can teach us all – about how to talk to one another, and about what’s really important as we interact with one another.

Just how should we answer that imaginary child’s question? I’ll leave that to wiser minds than mine. I don’t find it amusing, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun!

Maybe we can just call it “Flags Over Texas.” Or, The Great Texas Fun Park!

Photo by Ann W./Flickr/ April 2010

 

Posted in Current Events, Democracy, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

July 4, 2017

101_3073I can’t help but wonder sometimes just who has highjacked my country. And, more importantly, why?

On this Independence Day, I would like to celebrate the freedoms that we have, enjoy my friends and bask in small-town pleasures like back-yard-barbecues, relaxing times, loud music, and the spectacle of fireworks exploding in the sky. It’s a national tradition.

Or, it was such a tradition until recently, when invective, rancor and malice ran wild, and name calling became a national sport, right up there with spreading discontent and circulating half-truths and full-blown untruths. This is nothing to celebrate, to be sure.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all embrace the sentiments expressed in this beautifully inclusive video that a relative of mine shared this morning? Unfortunately, it seems that some viewers see it as a reason to criticize these United States rather than to celebrate US. More’s the pity.

Rather than uniting for the common good, many seem bent on further division — against enemies ill-defined and largely non-existent. We no longer speak a common language of tolerance and understanding, and some remember only how to label and criticize.

I shared this video because it expresses my heartfelt belief that diversity does indeed make us great, and I choose to celebrate that diversity. But I suspect that others view this video very differently, as a way to point out that some of us are less equal, less deserving, less acknowledged, less free, and somehow less important than others. That discussion is for another time and another place.

It saddens me, because on this day, at least, we ought to be able to come together to celebrate the great experiment known as the United States of America. There is enough time on all other days to dispute that, if dispute you must.

On this day, it is enough to wave the flag, watch the fireworks and celebrate our heritage.

 

Posted in Democracy, Holiday Celebrations, Patriotism | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hope: No, it has not disappeared!

Note: This post was begun about six months ago — just after the national elections, although I have no record of the exact date. Just as obviously, I never finished it. Words at the time were difficult, because there were so many divisive and disheartening words being spoken and written all around me.

I simply chose not to add to the noise.

But, now, it seems appropriate to write again. So here I go. Read — or not.

But, hopefully, we can all once again find the will to speak respectfully to one another, to work for a better future here at home and around the world. It’s time; if not for our time, then for our children’s time and for their children’s time. I choose hope.

The need is great, perhaps never greater.

My words, from December 2016:

I have been reading for the past several days of Michelle Obama’s comments to Oprah Winfrey about hope, and how she believes that it has somehow left the American scene because Donald Trump won the election and her husband is soon to leave office.

I beg to differ.

Hope, it seems to me, does not hang around the neck of any one person; and hopes are not dashed because another person arrives on the scene. I have no doubt that Barack Obama used the word “hope” before he was elected president as a beacon for what he believed was best.  “Hope and change” became campaign rhetoric, to be sure, but the hope was real.

During this last campaign, new players on the scene spoke about their visions, and their plans, their hopes and their dreams, their programs and platforms. Each of us made a choice, based on our own experiences and our own hopes. Millions of different hopes.

And to say that there is now no hope in the country? Balderdash, Michelle; and shame on you for spouting such nonsense!

Hope is alive and well in this country — and around the world. Look around you! Yesterday, I sat for at least 30 minutes in front of my computer, in awe at a live broadcast from the city square in old Yafo, Israel. The occasion? A tree lighting celebration, complete with a countdown in Hebrew, Christmas carols in English, and several different languages as “background music.” The wonder of it all. 

If that can happen in Israel . . . need I say more?

My thoughts, at the beginning of June 2017:

Times change, but time changes little.

These past weeks the news has been hopeful at times, and then dreadful — from Manchester, from London, from Mali and Nigeria, from Syria and Iraq, from Egypt  and Afghanistan; and, yes, from our own country. The news is unsettling. There is no question that we live in troubled times. We Americans are still divided on too many topics. The rhetoric continues.

We are still, in many ways, acting like children. And it’s time to grow up.

Senseless acts are perpetrated around the globe. They are random, and far too frequent. This year to date there have been 538 terrorist attacks, with 3,640 fatalities. I am outraged, in large part by the lack of outrage; and I am horrified at the suggestion that this has become the new normal.

Lack of agreement on too many topics continues here at home. We have problems to solve, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work to find solutions.

I don’t have the answers. But I am certain of one thing, perhaps only one thing. The more we continue to fight one another, the less chance we have of returning to the “old normal” where we were able to live in our land or to travel abroad without fear, to work together to solve problems, and to look forward to a future full of promise.

I refuse to believe that that hope was false, that it is an impossible dream.

I am not so naive as to believe I will ever see an entire world at peace. I once hoped for that. But I still hold out hope that Americans and all citizens of the world will commit to seeking more peaceful solutions most of the time.

Isn’t that the way adults are supposed to act? Is it so much to ask?

 

 

Posted in Democracy, Growing Up, World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Still in awe . . .

Reportedly, John Glenn said he was “still in awe” of his space flight on its 50th anniversary February 20, 2012.

John Glenn, who rode Freedom 7 into the history books on a not-quite-five-hour flight in 1962, was not only the first American to orbit the earth, but also the oldest. He was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts in 1962, but he left  earth’s atmosphere once again in 1998 with the crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. He was 77 at that time. Instead of three turns around the earth as on his first trip, Glenn circumnavigated the globe 134 times with Discovery.

Yesterday, he died at age 95, the last of the original seven astronauts.

John Glenn was an authentic American hero. Somehow, it seems he should have lived forever, but that is not the case with real heroes.

I was sorry to hear the news. I remember that 1962 flight: it paved the way to fulfillment of President Kennedy’s promise of going to the moon “before the end of the decade.” And that, at the time, was really something!

It still is.

When John Glenn flew his first mission as an astronaut, he was 40 years old. He had previously been a fighter pilot in both World War II and Korea. Then he became a test pilot, a prerequisite for the astronaut corps at the time. He left NASA soon after President Kennedy’s assassination, with the goal of running for political office in Ohio. However, it would be another 10 years before he won election to the U.S. Senate to serve four terms.

His second mission to space came 37 years after his first. That was 18 years ago!

John Glenn lived quite a life and was thought of — for much of it — as a kind of superman.

When he was strapped in to the tiny Mercury capsule in 1962, his backup astronaut, Scott Carpenter, is said to have sent him on his way with the words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.

Once again, the words are appropriate.

Godspeed, John Glenn. And, thank you.

 

Posted in Erewhon, Growing Old, History | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Train dreams live on . . .

My husband and I recently took the grandkids to the circus. Somewhere between the elephants and the camels, the tigers, the clowns and the flying trapeze, my husband asked our wide-eyed eight-year-old if he’d ever thought about running away to join the circus.

“No,” he said, but he patiently listened to the story of how running away to join the circus “was what all little boys dreamed about when Papa was young.” He listened as his Papa explained how the children watched as the tents were erected, and how the animals and circus gear were unloaded from the train.

He thought that today the circus animals and performers probably arrived in trucks and buses. We agreed that was most likely the case.

No more circus trains . . .

As a little girl in a much different place, I don’t think I ever contemplated running away to the circus. But I did want to ride the rails away to faraway places and larger-than-life adventure. My lasting fascination with trains began then. It helped that during summers in a small town, both passenger and freight trains rumbled slowly by, their mournful whistles signaling each passage.

My love for those trains and that whistle continues to this day. Returning by car from a Thanksgiving trip to Santa Fe, I found myself wistfully waving at multiple engines as the miles ticked by in New Mexico and West Texas. Highways follow the tracks in those long, lonely stretches; and the long freight trains speed by.

I was the child who waved to trains at every railroad crossing, and as often as not I received return waves, either from the engineer on the lead engine or from a trainman on the caboose platform.

It may be silly, but I still wave at train engines as I drive across the country. I seldom get a return wave, and I no longer expect one.

But, Sunday . . .

For one short moment, somewhere in the middle of New Mexico, the little girl inside was thrilled! I didn’t see a return wave; instead, I heard a blast of the train whistle. There wasn’t a crossing within miles, so I know the blast was for me!

It brought back a lot of memories.

And I smiled to myself for the next 200 miles or so, thinking of all the trains I’ve watched, and waved to, and ridden. Today, few people notice.

But there once was a time when those trains carried dreams. For me, they still do.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A grateful nation . . .

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­flyover-addisonThe armistice was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in a rail car in France. 1918.

Nearly 100 years since the end of the war to end all wars and we’re still fighting.

Today, however, three days after the presidential election in the United States, we’re fighting among ourselves, against one another. Even family members have drawn lines that may be difficult to erase.

Today the infighting and the ill will in our land make it harder to honor those who served to defend our freedoms, protect American interests, secure peace in the world, and establish justice and liberty for all.

This morning my hope is that the memory as well as the reality of those long ago battles in lands far away will temper our actions in the coming days; that somehow we can find ways to talk to one another, to understand each other, and to establish effective means to join hands and move forward.

For my part, I condemn the violence, the perceived fear and the evident hatred that are pervasive today. Demonstrations have turned violent in scattered cities from coast to coast and throughout the heartland. Distrust is evident. It is not one-sided. It is ugly. It is reprehensible and destructive. It is pointless. And it is tearing this nation apart.

Will you join me in speaking out against it?

For today, though, I choose to remember and honor the service of millions in the armed forces of the United States, many of them my blood relatives. It is with a deep sense of respect that I acknowledge that service. I am not so hopeful as to imagine a future when such sacrifice might not be necessary.

But that would be cause for jubilation, wouldn’t it?

Posted in History, Patriotism, Veterans Day | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment