Two, too large plates

gg2Hanging up a woman’s fur coat and a man’s overcoat were familiar rites of passage on Thanksgiving. When Joanna’s grandparents arrived, the day’s festivities got into full swing.

There is a front hall in the 1820’s New England farmhouse where she grew up. A long, yellow, stenciled bench there held hats and gloves. Above it, a rack held the coats. It was a short walk to the front hall, yet the coats were heavy for a young girl of ten or so.

At the table, the grandparents sat across from Joanna. Grandma wore a green print dress with a gold circled, pearl accented broche. Grandpa wore a double-breasted, blue pin-striped suit with a cranberry colored tie. The details of what her siblings wore don’t come to mind. There was a cranberry hounds-tooth skirt that may have fit the bill for Joanna. Her dad always wore a cranberry pullover sweater with buttons and a collar. There appears to be a clear color theme with at least three people!

Three small ornaments came out for Thanksgiving dinner. The first was something made in school in the form of a turkey of pine cone and pipe cleaners. The other two were wax figurines of a pilgrim man and woman. They sat on the windowsills in the dining room.

As Joanna wandered into the kitchen, her dad would be making cut celery with cream cheese and a sprinkling of paprika. It was the traditional holiday appetizer that they gathered in the kitchen to munch on while taking in the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking.

The pantry held the two traditional pies that would be eaten later. The first was a pumpkin pie, and the second was a mincemeat pie. They would be served with a hunk of white cheddar cheese.

At the table, the family sat down and began serving the food family style. Most tried to put a reasonable amount on their plates and knew they could go back for seconds. Not so with grandma and grandpa. They filled their plates mounded to about four inches high.

Grandpa, in his 80s, was showing serious side effects of his pernicious anemia with shaking hands. Still, each bite slowly made it into his mouth and they both cleared those dishes with no trouble whatsoever. Joanna’s mom explained that her parents had lived through the great depression and it had changed them.

Talk at the table began with family topics of what aunts, uncles and cousins were up to. Sometimes there would be stories of whose cars drove by her grandparents’ house that week. Other times grandma’s prized roses or lush blueberries were the topic.

“Old Mrs. Henkins was quite talkative on the phone this week. Every time I tried to make a call, she was talking to someone,” grandma said. Party lines on phones were, surprisingly, alive and well in some rural holdings.

“You talk plenty yourself on the phone, Helen,” grandfather would say. While a man of very few words, he reminded my grandmother of her talkative nature. The joke was that grandpa had selective hearing. He rarely even appeared to notice her talking unless there was a topic he felt obliged to join.

Sometimes there would be a sequel to the story of a broken fence and the neighbors’ cows coming into their property. Grandma was quick on her feet to run out banging kitchen pans to chase them back to their property. Next, the conversation would go to new recipes or television shows that the family was enjoying. Common, universal topics were discussed that didn’t anger or alienate anyone.

“Fred,” grandmother would say to her husband. “Isn’t this delicious? I don’t think I’ll be hungry later.”

The trench coat and the fashion police

trench-coatIt is never a good idea to think too highly of our personal style. Good style to one might be a fashion nightmare to another. Take a story about my classic trench coat for instance.

My daughter recently dissed my coat. Granted, I haven’t worn it much myself. Sill, I took a certain pride in owning a long, black, London Fog trench coat. I could still be chic in the rain — or so I thought. She had just bought a new suit for an important interview and I knew she didn’t own a raincoat.

Now I must admit that I have been fantasizing about a knee length Burberry trench. It’s the style that you can buy used for $500 on Ebay. I told myself that the trench I have might still work or even be updated. What if I took it to the tailor and asked them to sew in an updated lining? Maybe take the length up? Add a second row of buttons and we could call it a designer hybrid — a Fogberry perhaps.

When my daughter put the trench coat on, she burst into laughter. I hadn’t really thought about how the red details on the black gave a vampirish look to it. We’re just past the Halloween season, so perhaps our minds were getting carried away with us. Still, the coat was far from being an understated beige trench with a soft, brown plaid liner.

I’m having good fun with a coat from around 1980. Is it fair to speak so unjustly about a coat of 35 years? The lining is a bright red material as well. Good thing it hadn’t been zipped in when I offered to share the coat!

As she belted the coat and she gave out a great belly laugh, I couldn’t be offended. I remember other times that she has pulled some similarly outdated items and asked me to reconsider. Before one move, I must have donated one-third of the clothes I thought were still hip.

So, in summary, it’s occasionally a good thing to have another perspective on the wearable art we call clothing. We don’t need to arrive in coats that look like we’ve been on holiday to Transylvania!

Vintage is another word used for old, and sometimes chic items. Sometimes it is fun to relive old experiences and our saved clothes trigger good memories. Maybe vintage is a pile destined for the charity bin!

With the laughs behind, the creative inside of me is tempted to transform this coat. Call me cheap or sentimental. I’m a minimalist and a pragmatist who hates waste. It might just be good fun and a great experience to transform it. Wish me luck on the Fogberry theme here in Flanneland. Just don’t hold your breath!

Oh, and if any fashion wannabees have an idea, please share it here on the site. It’s all good fun and a way to relax!

Ducks, trucks and a rescue

FiretruckThe day started like every other for the Muscovy duck mother. Her brood of nine flounced along behind her. The fluffy yellow and brown downy bodies were like little wind-up toys waddling behind their mom. A full-grown Muscovy duck has a face a bit like a turkey. It has bright red mounds of skin marking the eyes and bill area creating markings that appear as a face-mask.

Millie, the mother duck, hadn’t been wandering out quite this far before with her little ones. It was time to introduce them to the bigger world. Moving across open space in familiar territory was refreshing. She confidently crossed the parking lot and waddled with large, webbed feet over the sewer grate. She had done this a hundred times before while alone. As she went forward, it never occurred to her to look behind.

Suddenly, she felt quite alone. Turning around, all she saw was the familiar grate in the middle of the parking lot. Then she started to hear chirps of her little ones. She waddled towards the sound. Looking down, she saw nine small, fluffy bodies swimming in a round pool of water. They were further than a human’s arm length below. She began to call back to her ducklings.

A neighbor in the apartment complex came outside and heard the calls of mother and offspring. With the mother duck running around the sewer grate and sounds of unseen ducklings, it didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. Civilization often brings unexpected dangers to wildlife. That grate was way too heavy for the neighbor to lift herself, and the water was too far below to reach. Some professional help was definitely needed! True, but what kind of professional would one call? She had never heard of a duck rescue number in the city.

She found the non-emergency city number, and a fire truck was soon dispatched. When the firemen arrived, they removed the grate, but saw that they could not reach the ducks. People started gathering around the area when they saw the fire truck in the neighborhood. A spaghetti colander with string to lower down to the ducks was offered. That didn’t work, because the little ducks kept swimming away. A net was needed to quickly snatch the scared babies.

When firemen from the first fire truck saw that they would not be able to complete the rescue, a second truck was dispatched with the proper equipment on it. A long-poled net was put down the hole, and one by one the little ducks were brought up. The firemen tried to carefully round up each of the ducklings to reconnect with their mother.

It wasn’t simple to get all of the ducklings out and back with their mother. The firemen had obviously done this rescue procedure before and knew that each of the ducklings had to reconnect promptly as a family. After a round-up effort that would have made a shepherding border collie proud, all nine of them were accounted for.

Millie promptly went back to the quiet canal in the park next door with her brood behind her. One by one the little ones followed her into the quiet water to rinse off  the dirty water they had been swimming in. Then they followed her to rest quietly by the shade of the oak tree and nestled in the soft green grass.

The firemen put the net back on the truck with the crucial equipment they carried for emergencies. They went back to the firehouse and waited for their next emergency call. The neighbor went back to her apartment and considered the act of kindness that she had been a part of. The resident ducks may not be beautiful, but they’ve found a way into her heart.